After enduring four long years of isolation and torture, Yang Hengjun remains confined within the confines of his Beijing prison cell. Two small gaps offer him glimpses of the outside world: one where his food arrives, and the other where it exits. The father, writer, and pro-democracy advocate has been denied access to books and letters, with only rare beams of sunlight providing fleeting moments of comfort.
Similar to the recent release of Australian journalist Cheng Lei, Yang’s family hopes for a miraculous intervention to secure his freedom. In a heartfelt letter addressed to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Yang’s sons express their yearning for their father to return home. They implore the prime minister, along with Foreign Minister Penny Wong and Ambassador Graham Fletcher, to make every effort to save Yang from his unjust detention.
The reasons behind Yang’s imprisonment remain shrouded in secrecy, mirroring Cheng’s case where vague national security charges of espionage were used. Yang’s supporters believe his outspoken criticism of the Chinese government has made him a target of political persecution. As Australia’s relationship with China deteriorated over the past four years, Yang, a graduate of the University of Technology, was detained in 2019, intensifying the strain between the two nations.
Yang’s deterioration in health has alarmed Australian Department of Foreign Affairs officials who have witnessed his physical decline during consular visits. He struggles to stand and has experienced multiple collapses. While Chinese medical professionals have diagnosed him with a kidney cyst, his family fears he is not receiving adequate treatment. The sons recount how many political prisoners in Chinese jails have suffered the same fate, succumbing to preventable illnesses due to the denial of medical care.
Filled with deep concern, Yang’s sons beseech Albanese to take action during his visit to Beijing. They emphasize that stabilizing the bilateral relationship with a government detaining an Australian citizen nearby is untenable. Yang’s love for his country is profound, and his absence is acutely felt by his family.
Foreign Minister Wong assures that the Australian government has persistently advocated for Yang’s basic rights to be upheld, including access to proper medical care. Yet, with Yang’s closed-door trial having concluded more than two years ago, hopes of reprieve during Albanese’s visit are slim. The deadline for the verdict has been extended to January 9, impeding any immediate resolution.
Yang’s memories trickle back to him as he traverses the darkness between his makeshift toilet and food delivery gap. In one poignant letter from prison, he recounts the heart-wrenching moment his youngest son pleaded for him to stay before he left their Sydney home.
Despite the challenges and uncertainty, Yang Hengjun’s unwavering resilience continues to inspire. His courageous fight for justice and freedom serves as a beacon of hope, shedding light on the pressing need for solidarity and action in protecting human rights.
Q: Why was Yang Hengjun imprisoned?
A: The reasons for Yang Hengjun’s imprisonment remain undisclosed, but his supporters believe it is due to his vocal criticism of the Chinese government.
Q: How is Yang’s health?
A: Yang’s health has rapidly deteriorated, with difficulty in standing and multiple collapses reported during consular visits.
Q: What is Yang’s family urging the Australian government to do?
A: Yang’s family is urging Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, along with Foreign Minister Penny Wong and Ambassador Graham Fletcher, to make every effort to secure his release during the prime minister’s visit to China.
Q: How long has Yang been detained?
A: Yang Hengjun has spent four years and nine months in detention.