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Relatives of an imprisoned writer in China have urged the Australian government to take action and secure his freedom, as there are concerns that he may not survive his time in prison.
In 2019, Yang Hengjun, who is 57 years old, was detained and held a secret trial in Beijing on charges of espionage in May 2021. Despite multiple delays, he has yet to receive a verdict.
Two of his children, one aged 24 and the other 31, have sent a letter to Australian leader Anthony Albanese prior to his official trip to China this weekend. The purpose of the visit is to enhance the relationship between the two countries.
On Wednesday, Mr Albanese stated that he will bring up the situation of the Australian citizen who is being held in detention with Chinese officials during his trip. The prime minister expressed sympathy and acknowledged the worries they have for their father and the Australian individual who has been in custody for a significant amount of time. He shared this information with reporters.
According to reports, the sons felt motivated to speak out after Australian journalist Cheng Lei was released and reunited with her two children in Melbourne last month. Cheng Lei had been detained for three years.
The brothers stated that it is important to clarify that the relationship between two countries cannot be stabilized if one government is holding an Australian citizen close to where the other country is hosting. They specifically mentioned Beijing.
According to them, they recently received the initial letter from Yang while he was in detention. In his letter, Mr. Yang expressed, “I am unwell, feeble, and close to death.”
According to the BBC, Mr. Yang’s family reported that he has endured over 300 interrogations and six months of severe torture while in detention.
Mr. Yang discovered in August that the reason for his muscle discomfort was a 10-centimeter cyst on his kidney. According to Mr. Yang, the doctor informed his family that no treatment was necessary unless the cyst becomes too painful, ruptures, or bleeds.
Before, Mr Yang was employed at the Chinese ministry of state security and later started a blog discussing Chinese matters.
According to family friend Feng Chongyi, the sons have not been named in public because they are afraid of potential retaliation from China due to their father’s actions.
According to Mr Feng, Mr Albanese’s visit to China – the first by an Australian prime minister since 2016 – presented an opportunity for Mr Yang.
“He stated to the Associated Press that this is not the final opportunity, but the optimal one. The visit signifies the full restoration of relations between the two nations.”
The arrival of Mr. Albanese on Saturday indicates an improvement in bilateral relations since his center-left administration took office last year, following nine years of conservative leadership. During his three-day trip, he will hold meetings with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Qiang in Beijing, as well as attend the China International Import Expo in Shanghai.
During his initial meeting with the Chinese leader at a Group of 20 summit in Indonesia last year, Mr Albanese brought up the challenges faced by Mr Yang and Ms Cheng.