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Australia demands China treat detained national 'fairly'

A handout image made available by the Vatican Media on January 23, 2019, shows the Vatican's Swiss Guard Corps in Rome, dressed in their ceremonial uniforms and wearing the new helmets.

Sydney, Jan 24, 2019 (AFP) - Australia on Thursday demanded China handle the case of detained author Yang Hengjun "transparently and fairly," amid a growing row about the fate of the Chinese-Australian.

Yang -- a novelist, democracy advocate and former Chinese diplomat -- was detained shortly after he made a rare return to China from the United States last week.

Friend and colleague Chongyi Feng told AFP he believes Yang is being charged with "espionage" although Chinese authorities have not publicly said why he was detained.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said diplomats and Chinese officials met in Beijing on Thursday to discuss the matter and that Australia was seeking "further clarification" as to why Yang is being detained.

"We will continue to make representations to China to make sure this is dealt with transparently and fairly," she said.

Once described as China's "most influential political blogger", Yang became an Australian citizen in 2000, but is currently based at New York's Columbia University.
His criticism of the Chinese government and support for democracy has in the past made him a target of Beijing's state security apparatus.

He went missing during a 2011 trip to China, but resurfaced days later, describing his disappearance as a "misunderstanding".

But his current detention comes at a moment of heightened tension between Western countries and an increasingly muscular Beijing, prompting fears that he may be the victim of a dragnet by Chinese security services targeting foreigners.