Yang Hengjun: Australian writer's espionage trial in China delayed by three months

The trial of Australian writer Yang Hengjun, who has been 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 said on Monday.

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 said.

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

Yang was a former Chinese spy who 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 also wrote spy novels that were published in Taiwan.

Yang, who became an Australian citizen in 2002, had been living in the United States, where he was a visiting scholar at Columbia University, before flying to Guangzhou with his family in January 2019. His wife and child were able to enter China but authorities escorted Yang from the plane into detention.

The Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, has previously said allegations Yang was a spy were “absolutely untrue”.