Yang Hengjun, the Chinese-Australian writer who was arrested arriving at Guangzhou airport in January, has been detained for three-plus months in Beijing under the accusation of “endangering China’s national security.”
Other than visits from Australian embassy officials once a month under the consular agreement, Yang has been granted no access to lawyers or family.
On April 26, Boxun News, a U.S.-based website that often publishes what China’s local media won’t, released a public petition letter allegedly from Yang’s wife, Yuan Ruijian, to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
In this letter, Yuan denied any accusation of espionage against her husband and demanded the authorities stop torturing him.
Yuan wrote in the letter:
[Yang] deeply loves China and the Chinese people. Such feelings can be detected in each of his articles. In his 20 years of immigration, he has never established contact with any overseas “reactionary organizations” or intelligence agencies, organizations or individuals, and has never carried out espionage activities that endangered China’s national security in any way. It is ridiculous to detain Yang Hengjun on the grounds of “suspected espionage.”
Yuan also revealed that Yang has been “under torture” including “sleep deprivation” and “exhaustive interrogation,” was being denied the change to read, talk, or access “fresh air in an open space.” Yuan said she was told her husband’s health was deteriorating, with loss of mobility, weight loss, and memory loss.
Thus, she demanded that the authorities stop torturing her husband, allow her husband access to lawyers, and release her husband as soon as possible.
Yuan explained that the reason she took the risk to petition to Xi directly is that “China has no judicial independence and the Party is above the law.”
Earlier this month, Yuan had already broken her silence and turned to the Australian press for help.
However, Yuan’s public letter as well as her earlier call for help stirred up mixed feelings among many pro-democracy Chinese at home and abroad.
As Supchina noted, Yuan made a name for herself in China by bashing democracy. She once famously (or infamously) called herself the “chairwoman” of the 50 Cent Party — a negative nickname given to those Chinese netizens who unconditionally support the Chinese Communist Party and China. As the “chairwoman,” she had aggressively attacked a number of pro-democracy Chinese netizens online.
In her blog, Yuan wrote: “Despite how good America is, it is someone else’s motherland. No matter how bad a mother China is, it is my home. I don’t need a reason to love her and protect her.” But she has since deleted this post.
Unsurprisingly, when the news broke out that Yang and Yuan — the self-proclaimed democracy defender and the fervent “chairwoman” of the 50-Cent Party — were married and moved together to the United States, a large number of Chinese netizens called Yuan a typical hypocrite, who made money by bashing the United States but abandoned China for America after making enough money. Yang’s credibility among pro-democracy netizens was also damaged to some degree.
So far, it’s unclear whether Yuan’s petition letter will gain sympathy from even pro-democracy Chinese – much less with Xi Jinping himself.