China rejects torture claim in trial of Australian writer

A Chinese government spokesperson on Tuesday rejected allegations by an Australianwriter that he was tortured during interrogation before being put on trial on spying charges.

The Foreign Ministry spokesperson also accused Australia of “unfounded provocation” after its government said Yang Hengjun’s incarceration since January 2019 was improper arbitrary detention.

“There is no arbitrary detention or forced confession with torture on Yang Jun,” spokesperson Wang Wenbin said, referring to Yang by the name used by Chinese officials.

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This undated, file photo released by Chongyi Feng shows Yang Hengjun and his wife Yuan Xiaoliang. (Chongyi Feng via AP, File)

This undated, file photo released by Chongyi Feng shows Yang Hengjun and his wife Yuan Xiaoliang. (Chongyi Feng via AP, File)

“We advise the Australian side to stop finger-pointing and unfound provocation against China’s rule of law, stop hyping the issue or exerting pressures to grossly interfere with China’s judicial sovereignty,” Wang said.

Yang, a crime novelist, and blogger said he asked the judge ahead of his trial last week to exclude records of his interrogation because he was tortured, according to a copy of his account seen by The Associated Press.

“It’s illegal. Torture,” Yang said in the account circulated to his supporters.

Chinese authorities have not released any details of the charges against Yang, who reportedly formerly worked for the country’s Ministry of State Security as an intelligence agent.

Yang said the judge refused his request to submit evidence and call witnesses during the trial, but agreed to include almost 100 pages of defense documents in his case file.

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Yang has denied the allegations. A conviction is virtually certain, but it isn’t clear when the verdict will be handed down.

The espionage charge carries penalties ranging from three years in prison to the death penalty.

The trial comes at a time of deteriorating Chinese-Australian relations.

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Beijing has blocked imports of Australian goods in retaliation for enacting legislation against foreign interference in politics, excluding telecom equipment giant Huawei from Australia’s next-generation phone network and calling for an investigation into the origin of the coronavirus that emerged in China in late 2019.

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