Dr Yang, 56, is one of four prominent foreign citizens detained in China on national security charges suspected of being linked to political disputes between Beijing and other countries.

His case has further hampered relations between Australia and China.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne called on China to allow Dr Yang to consult with his lawyer before the trial and said Australian diplomats should be present at the trial, which supporters say will be kept secret because it s it was a matter of national security.

“This process has been closed and opaque to date. As a fundamental standard of justice, access to trial for observers must be a bare minimum to comply with international standards of transparency ”. Senator Payne said in a statement.

China has signaled it is unlikely to comply, with its embassy in Canberra attacking Senator Payne’s comments as “deplorable” and accusing Australia of interfering with its legal system.

“The Australian side should respect China’s judicial sovereignty and refrain from interfering in any form with the legal handling of the case by Chinese judicial authorities,” the Chinese embassy said in a statement. press release Saturday.

Professor Feng said that Dr. Yang’s health deteriorated after more than two years of detention. The authorities had used sleep deprivation in an attempt to obtain a confession, and he had “been subjected to severe interrogations at least 300 times, sometimes day and night.”

Professor Feng said that Dr Yang had kidney, heart and prostate problems. He said the Australian government could seek medical parole once Dr Yang was sentenced, but the chances of his release were slim.

Although Dr. Yang was entitled to monthly consular visits, he did not have access to his lawyer or family.

Sour relationships

His trial comes as relations between Canberra and Beijing continue to deteriorate.

China suspended a platform for a high-level economic dialogue between the two countries two weeks ago in retaliation for the Morrison government’s removal of a Belt and Road Initiative Agreement between Victoria and Beijing. China has threatened to take further action if the Morrison government cancels the Darwin port lease.

China has imposed tariffs or restrictions on Australian coal, beef, barley, wine, seafood, timber and cotton over the past year. Australia’s iron ore exports to China are not threatened in the short term, but authorities have made plans to find other sources of this steel product.

China also denied Canadian diplomats access to the trials of two of its citizens in March.

Diplomats from more than 20 countries, including Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, gathered in March outside a Beijing courthouse where a trial was underway for former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig, detained for over two years. Canadian businessman Michael Spavor has also been tried for espionage.

Another Australian, Journalist Cheng Lei is also being held in China on charges of disclosing state secrets.

China said in 2019 that Dr Yang was under investigation for participating in “criminal activities endangering China’s national security.” Dr Yang said he was innocent and his supporters said he refused to give in under pressure to make a confession.

Dr Yang was detained at Guangzhou Airport in January 2019 after arriving from New York. He lived in the United States where he was a visiting scholar at Columbia University in New York.

A former Chinese diplomat turned novelist and online commentator, he is said to have become an Australian citizen in 2002. His wife remains in Shanghai and he has a daughter in Australia.

Professor Feng said that Dr Yang was also the victim of President Xi Jinping’s crackdown on more moderate criticism of the Communist Party.


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