hinese authorities have now informed Australia’s embassy in Beijing that they have detained Chinese-Australian writer Yang Hengjun, five days after his not-so-mysterious disappearance.
Yang’s friends say that the popular novelist and blogger was snatched up by secret police immediately after landing at the Guangzhou airport on Saturday. Since then, he has become uncontactable and his normally active Twitter page has gone totally silent.
Yang had traveled to Guangzhou with his wife, Yuan Rui Juan, and young step-son. Afterward, Yuan reportedly made a brief stop in Shanghai where she dropped off her son before continuing on to Beijing, posting a photo onto Weibo of her arrival at the airport there.
News of Yang’s “disappearance” broke on Wednesday, however, when asked at a Beijing press conference, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that she was not aware of the situation. Later in the day, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade released a statement confirming that Yang had been detained by Chinese authorities, adding that the department was “seeking to clarify the nature of this detention and to obtain consular access to him.”
In another life, Yang worked at the Chinese foreign ministry before moving out of China and becoming a popular spy novelist, intellectual, and blogger who is critical of the Communist Party and an advocate of democracy. A citizen of Australia since 2002, Yang now lives in the United States, working as a visiting scholar at Columbia University.
Back in 2011, Yang “disappeared” for two days during a trip to Guangzhou. When he resurfaced, he attributed his absence to an “illness,” saying cryptically, “I’m ok right now. Everything is ok. I’m just recovering… This trouble is caused by me.”
Yang’s friend, Feng Chongyi, a professor at the University of Technology in Sydney, said that he had tried to caution Yang against returning to China, warning that the risk was too high. However, Yang waved off his friend’s concerns, assuring Feng that many of his social media channels in China had been shut down over the last few years, so he wasn’t much of a threat anymore.