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Australian minister: no proof writer’s detention in China related to Canada, Australia policies

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Australian Defence Minister Christopher Pyne said on Monday there was no proof the detention of a Chinese-born Australian writer by authorities in Beijing was related to the detention of Canadians in China or Australian policies.

Yang Hengjun was detained in southern China earlier this month and taken to Beijing where China has said he was held under “coercive measures”, a euphemism for detention, as he is being investigated on suspicion of “endangering state security”.

“In terms of the detention of Mr. Yang, I don’t see any evidence that the detention of Mr. Yang is linked to decisions made by the Australian government in recent times,” Pyne told a security forum in Singapore where Chinese military officials were in attendance.

“Nor do I see it being linked to the detention of the two Canadians,” he said, without elaborating.

Pyne had visited China last week for scheduled talks.

Tensions have risen in recent weeks between China and some Western countries after two Canadians, a diplomat on unpaid leave and a consultant, were arrested in China on suspicion of endangering state security.

Australia joined international condemnation of the arrest of the Canadians, but Yang has long been in the sights of Chinese authorities. He has criticized what he described as Chinese interference in Australia.

Yang’s lawyer, Mo Shaoping, told Reuters that his client was suspected of “espionage”, and was being held under “residential surveillance at a designated location.”

Relations between Australia and China, its largest trading partner, have been strained in recent years and Pyne’s trip was arranged in a bid to repair ties damaged by Australian accusations in 2017 that China was meddling in its affairs.

Reporting by Fathin Ungku; writing by Jack Kim; Editing by Michael Perry

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