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Chinese Australian writer Yang Hengjun faces possible charges after six months in China jail

Yang Hengjun's family told the Australian embassy in Beijing that the writer had been taken to the facility, an Australian foreign minister spokesman confirmed in a statement Thursday.

The 53-year-old writer routinely posted satirical commentaries critical of the Chinese government to his nearly 130,000 Twitter followers before his detention in January, during a visit to see family in China

"Australia continues to have consular access and have once again asked that Yang be granted immediate access to his lawyers,

Yang's case has drawn a widespread concern over the growing international concern over the detention of foreign citizens in China during geopolitical disputes, though China denies the arrests are politically motivated.

Yang's Melbourne-based family lawyer, Robert Stary, said Wednesday that Beijing was faced with a Friday deadline to decide whether to charge or release the writer based on information provided by a source in China

 Chinese-Australian writer Yang Hengjun detained in China for espionage

Chinese law enforcement authorities usually have up to six months to hold suspects, but legal experts say officials may extend detentions in cases of national security. 19659002] Stary said he is focusing his efforts on lobbying the Australian government to intervene on behalf of Yang's wife – Yuan Xiaoliang – a Chinese citizen with Australian permanent residency. Yuan went into hiding after authorities stopped her at Beijing airport and she attempted to travel to Sydney in early July, Stary said.

When asked about Yang's status Wednesday, a Chinese foreign minister official said his case was still under investigation. "China's national security agencies handle their cases in strict accordance with law and have fully guaranteed Yang's legitimate rights," said minister spokesman Geng Shuang. "Yang is in good health."

Rocky relations

Yang's detention in January came amid a period of rocky relations between Beijing and Canberra. Both countries were increasingly clashing about issues ranging from China's alleged attempts to influence Australian politics, to the Australian government's decision to ban technology from Chinese company Huawei from the country's 5G mobile networks and Beijing's rising ambitions in the South Pacific

the only country to see its citizens arrested after falling foul of the Chinese government.

 Chinese-Australian writer Yang Hengjun (left) pictured with prominent liberal intellectual Mao Yushi in an undated photo
Chinese-Australian writer Yang Hengjun (left) pictured with prominent liberal intellectual Mao Yushi in an undated photo. Two Ottomans were detained on December 10, 2018, accused of gathering and stealing "sensitive information and other intelligence" since 2017. Ottawa continues to call for the immediate release of former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor, who were arrested in May.
The Canadians' detention in December came just over a week after the Canadian government arrested Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese tech giant Huawei. Meng was taken into custody on December 1, 2018, in Vancouver on behalf of the United States on charges of working to escape US sanctions against Iran

Enraged by Meng's detention, the Chinese government repeatedly called the case "political" accused Canada and the US of "abusing their bilateral extradition treaty." Meng remains under house arrest in Vancouver while fighting extradition to the US in a Canadian court.

Exit ban

The exit ban faced by Yang's wife mirrors the situation of two young American siblings who have been prevented from leaving China for over a year following a family visit.

Cynthia Liu, 28, and Victor Liu, 19 – both born in the US – are reportedly being pressed to press their high-profile fugitive father into returning to China, where he is wanted for financial crimes. In a video by CNN in May, an emotional Cynthia Liu said she and her brother "wake up every morning terrified," adding that they had "never felt more exhausted, sad and hopeless."

Although Beijing denies any link between its detention of foreign nationals and bilateral disputes, critics say the cases have had a "chilling effect" on how foreigners view and deal with China

"You start to hear people say, If my government has frictions with China, d better not be in China, "said Yaqiu Wang, a China researcher for the international advocacy group Human Rights Watch. "

Wang said that Chinese officials under President Xi Jinping have become" increasingly confident and aggressive "on the Chinese government. a global stage when defending Beijing's human rights record, but urged the international community, especially Western governments, to keep pressing China on the issue.

Expressing disappointment in US President Donald Trump for "using human rights as a bargaining chip" with China, Wang said that such moves send a wrong signal and do not help foreign citizens arbitrarily detained in China

"The Chinese government is getting the message (from the US) – 'You do not really care about human rights "- which would be independent of other political and economic talks," she said.

CNN's Angus Watson contributed reporting from Hong Kong

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