Trial delayed for Australian writer detained in Beijing on spying charges

(Reuters) – The trial of Australian writer Yang Hengjun, detained in Beijing since January 2019, has been delayed by three months, according to his former teacher and a supporter Feng Chongyi.

The 55-year-old pro-democracy blogger, who was detained at Guangzhou Airport after arriving from New York, faces a lengthy jail sentence after Chinese authorities charged him with endangering national security by joining or accepting a mission from an unidentified espionage organisation.

A trial before the Beijing Second Intermediate People’s Court had been due to begin by January, but has been delayed, Sydney-based Feng told Reuters.

Yang has previously said he would not confess to something that he had not done.

“Yang’s refusal to confess in spite of 300 rounds of interrogation does cause real difficulties for the confession-based legal system,” Feng told Reuters.

The Chinese foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Yang was a former Chinese spy, who had worked in Hong Kong and Washington, before leaving the service to become a democracy advocate, according to a confidential letter he wrote to Feng in 2011. He wrote spy novels that were published in Taiwan.