• Sat. Jun 19th, 2021

A senior Chinese diplomat in Canberra has admitted he has almost no information about the secretive trial of Australian writer Yang Hengjun


Jun 1, 2021


A senior Chinese diplomat in Canberra has admitted he has almost no information about the secretive trial of Australian writer Yang Hengjun.

Key points:

  • Mr Wang has conceded the embassy has been given little information about the trial of Australian Yang Hengjun
  • Dr Yang pleaded not guilty to espionage in a closed Beijing court last week
  • The top Chinese diplomat said the Morrison government was hypocritical to demand more transparency from China

Dr Yang is being tried for espionage in a closed court in Beijing.

But the former Chinese state security employee says he still has not been told which country he allegedly spied for, and has accused the Chinese government of persecuting him for championing democracy.

The Federal Government has also become increasingly frustrated after being blocked from Dr Yang’s trial, with Australia’s Ambassador to China Graham Fletcher labelling it a case of “arbitrary detention”.

The ABC’s Stan Grant raised Dr Yang’s case with China’s Deputy Head of Mission in Canberra, Wang Xining, during a wide-ranging interview which will air on the ABC later this evening on the first episode of “China Tonight.”

Security agencies rarely share information widely within the Chinese system, and Mr Wang conceded the embassy had little information about what was going on.

The Deputy Head of Mission also said China’s government would provide more details about the case when Dr Yang’s trial was concluded.

“My government will offer a statement at the end of the judicial procedure. I don’t think it’s right for a diplomat to speak on no grounds and try to prophesise what the outcome will be,” he said.

“It’s a very strict, very systematic legal procedure.”


Yang Hengjun and his wife Yuan Xiaoliang.

Mr Wang also argued it was hypocritical for the Morrison government to demand more transparency from China when there was so much secrecy surrounding foreign interference cases in Australia.

Last month, the ABC revealed that security agencies are reassessing whether a Liberal party donor with ties to federal government MPs was engaging in foreign interference on behalf of the Chinese government.

Wang Xining also alluded to the contentious case of Wang Liqiang, who sought political protection in Australia after claiming to have worked as a Chinese intelligence operative.

‘Potential’ to repair China-Australia relationship

The Deputy of Head of Mission fielded questions about the joint statement issued yesterday by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his New Zealand counterpart, which included criticisms of China’s crackdowns in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.


Both Prime Ministers were keen to present a united front on China during a joint press conference in Queenstown.(AFP)

China’s foreign ministry spokesman issued a stern rebuke on Monday evening, saying the accusations were “groundless” and saying Australia and New Zealand “should not target the interests of third parties, let alone be delineated by ideology.”

But Wang Xining took a slightly less confrontational tack.

He said while China did not agree with the sections of the joint statement which “interfered” with China’s sovereignty, the embassy was still intent on trying to improve the Australia-China relationship.

“We do value the relationship between China and the two countries, Australia and New Zealand. There is a vast potential for the countries to work together to overcome the difficulties posed by COVID-19 and the economic downturn,” he said.

He again suggested that the federal government’s China policy was being dictated by individual politicians — as well as security and defence agencies — deeply hostile to Beijing.

Mr Wang said Australia should “anchor” its China policy “on the basis of long-term interests, not sectoral interests or departmental ambitions, or the personal political ambitions of certain players.”

There has been increasing anxiety in Canberra about the prospect of conflict in the Taiwan Strait, with Home Affairs Secretary Mike Pezzullo recently warning that free nations were “again hearing the beating drums” of war.

Wang Xining said China would “love to see peaceful reunification” but warned that the central government “cannot rule out other options to make our country reunified again.”

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