CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — A Chinese Australian writer detained in Beijing on suspicion of espionage since January has urged Australia to maintain diplomatic pressure for his release.
Yang Hengjun said in a statement released by a Sydney-based friend on Thursday that he was "extremely grateful" to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Foreign Minister Marise Payne, other Australian lawmakers and diplomats "for their help."
"I implore the prime minister to help me go home as soon as possible," Yang, 54, said in the statement provided to The Associated Press by Feng Chongyi, an academic who was detained in China for two weeks in 2017 while researching human rights lawyers.
Yang was taken into custody upon arriving in southern China's Guangzhou from New York on Jan. 19 with his wife, Yuan Xiaoliang, and his 14-year-old stepdaughter.
The Beijing branch of China's National Security Bureau arrested Yang last week on "suspicion of espionage," China's foreign ministry said Tuesday.
Payne has made multiple representations on Yang's behalf to her Chinese counterpart, Wangi Yi, and has told China that the blogger and spy novelist should be freed if he is being held for his political opinions. China has urged Australia to respect its legal processes.
Morrison said Australia would not let Yang's case go.
"We'll stand up for our citizen and we'll expect him to be treated appropriately and his human rights to be respected," Morrison told Nine Network television on Thursday.
"There's their own justice process that they'll follow in China and that's appropriate. But these suggestions that he's acted as a spy for Australia are absolutely untrue and we'll be protecting and seeking to support our citizen," he added.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Morrison's comments "completely confuse right and wrong and contradict themselves."
"On the one hand, they said they respect China's judicial sovereignty and will not interfere in China's judicial procedures. On the other hand, they keep making irresponsible remarks on affairs falling within China's sovereignty and trying to blame and pressure us," Geng said.
"I advise the Australian side to immediately stop making unfounded and irresponsible remarks, stop hyping up the issue and pressuring China, and do something conducive to mutual trust and bilateral relations," he added.
Yang said in a statement that was compiled by Australian diplomats during their monthly meeting with him in detention on Tuesday that the Chinese chief investigator told him "Australia is small and won't care about me."
The investigator "said Australia was dependent on China for its trade and economy and Canberra wouldn't help me, let alone rescue me," Yang said in the statement that was distributed to family and friends.
The investigator "said Australia wouldn't help because I am not white. This is nonsense. He was wrong," Yang added.
Associated Press news assistant Liu Zheng in Beijing contributed to this report.