Detained Australian Yang Hengjun alleges torture in China

According to a message conveyed to family and friends, detained Australian writer Yang Hengjun, facing trial in Beijing on espionage charges, has asked to exclude evidence obtained in interrogations where he says he was tortured.

In his first comments since Thursday’s court hearing, which was closed to family and Australian consular officials because China says it involved state secrets, Dr. Yang also expressed concern that geopolitical tensions may influence the outcome of his trial.

“If a wrong decision is made because of political pressure or bad international relations, under the pretext of national security, that’s bad,” he said in the message, which Reuters saw and verified by a source with knowledge of the matter.

Diplomatic ties between Australia and China have deteriorated sharply since Yang was detained in January 2019, with China imposing trade sanctions on some imports from Australia and reacting angrily to its call for an international inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus.

Yang Hengjun

Australia says it has received no explanation for the charges against Yang. On Friday, foreign minister Marise Payne labeled Dr. Yang’s case “arbitrary detention” after consular officials visited him in detention.

“I hope Australia can keep communicating with China on good terms to help bring about my release as soon as possible,” Dr. Yang said in the message.

Dr. Yang said he addressed the court directly for three to five minutes during the six-hour hearing.

“I was tired and confused and didn’t have the spirit to speak enough,” he said, adding he was satisfied with the defense presented by his lawyers. His family appointed human rights lawyers Mo Shaoping and Shang Baojun but have been forbidden from speaking to anyone about the details of the national security case.

Dr. Yang told the judge: “I hope that the Chinese rule of law wins.”

Dr. Yang said he met the judge on Monday and pleaded to exclude his interrogation records ahead of the hearing.

“It’s illegal. Torture. They had hidden camera records,” he said.

Dr. Yang was held in residential surveillance at a designated location, a form of informal detention without legal representation, for six months in 2019. Australia has repeatedly complained about the conditions under which he was held. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian previously rejected allegations of torture. “All of Yang Hengjun’s lawful rights have been fully guaranteed,

and there is no so-called torture or abuse,” he told reporters in December. Yang said in the message he had “served China when I was young, even secretly, and I helped people”. Reuters previously reported Yang had told supporters he worked for Chinese security agencies before migrating to Australia in 1999. He later became a high-profile blogger who wrote about Chinese democracy. In the message released on Sunday, he doesn’t know which espionage agency he allegedly worked for.

“I didn’t work for Australia or the US. I’m only writing for people,” he said.
  • He noted a verdict could be delayed by up to two years.
  • “I’ve already been held in a place worse than prison for over two years now,” he said.
  • Potential penalties in espionage cases range from three years to the death penalty.

Molly Aronson

I'm an award-winning blogger who enjoys all things creative but is especially passionate about lifestyle design. I blog over at I love that I get to share my passion for healthy living, fashion, fitness, and travel with readers from all over the world.

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