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China keeps diplomats out of espionage trial of Australian Yang Hengjun

Berita 24 English - On Thursday, Australia's ambassador to China was denied access to a heavily guarded Beijing court hearing an espiona...

Berita 24 English -
On Thursday, Australia's ambassador to China was denied access to a heavily guarded Beijing court hearing an espionage case against Australian blogger Yang Hengjun when relations between the two countries are deteriorating.

Australia's ambassador to China, Graham Fletcher, attempted to enter Beijing's No. 2 Intermediate People's Court by a two-way consular pact.

"Regrettably, we were recently denied entry to the court. The reason given was the pandemic situation, but the foreign ministry has also informed us that we are not permitted to attend because it is a national security matter. "Outside the court, Fletcher spoke to reporters.

"This is profoundly regrettable, alarming, and unsatisfactory. We have had serious concerns about this case for a long period of time, including a lack of transparency, and have concluded that it is an instance of arbitrary detention."

The case has been shrouded in secrecy, with no information about the espionage agency for which Yang is alleged to have worked released. Yang faces a maximum sentence of ten years in prison if convicted of endangering national security.

Yang is an Australian citizen born in China who lived in New York before his two-year detention in China.

Australia has complained that Chinese authorities have failed to provide "any explanation or evidence" for the charges, prompting a rebuke from the Chinese embassy in Canberra, Australia's capital, on Saturday.

Yang is represented by human rights lawyers Mo Shaoping and Shang Baojun at Thursday's proceedings, which will continue into the afternoon as his lawyers respond to the charges, according to a friend of Yang with knowledge of the matter.

The court is not open to the general public. According to friends, Yuan Xiaoliang, Yang's wife, has travelled to Beijing from Shanghai but has not attended the court hearing following her application being denied.

She hasn't seen Yang since the couple was apprehended at Guangzhou's southern airport in January 2019.

Yang stated in March in his final message to family and friends in Australia before the hearing that his health had deteriorated, but they should not be concerned because he had "no fear."

"If someone wishes to exact vengeance on me for my writings, please explain what I did and the significance of my writing to the Chinese people," he wrote, according to a copy of the message seen by Reuters.

Fletcher indicated that a verdict could be rendered today or that a separate verdict hearing could be held.

Police lined the court's front entrance, extending their presence a block away, and verified the identities of journalists denied entry.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne of Australia said that Yang's correspondence with his family in Australia has been "deeply moving" and "extremely difficult" for him.

Payne told ABC radio that Australia desired a "transparent and open process."

"We are not interfering with the legal system in China. Our concerns are legitimate,"'She stated.

Diplomatic relations between the two countries have deteriorated significantly since Yang's detention, with China imposing trade sanctions on Australian produce and reacting angrily to Australia's call for an international investigation into the coronavirus's origins, as well as its 5G ban on telecoms giant Huawei.

Yang was a prominent blogger who discussed Chinese and American politics and wrote a series of spy novels.

His detention in January 2019 coincided with a Chinese police crackdown on possible foreign interference and a "colour revolution."

Yang was previously arrested in 2011 in China on suspicion of involvement in the brief "Jasmine Revolution" protests and released three days later.

In a letter to supporters in Australia following his release, he wrote that he had previously worked in Hong Kong and Washington for the Chinese state security agency before migrating to Australia in 1999.

Human Rights Watch said it was "alarming" that Chinese authorities denied Australian diplomats observer status on Thursday.

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