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'Courageous' Australian Writer Yang Hengjun Detained In China

Australian consular officials are seeking to gain access to Chinese-Australian writer Yang Hengjun who has been detained in China.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on Thursday morning confirmed the novelist and democracy activist was detained by local authorities in Beijing. 

“The department is seeking to clarify the nature of this detention and to obtain consular access to him, in accordance with the bilateral consular agreement, as a matter of priority,” it said in a statement.

It comes as Defence Minister Christopher Pyne begins an official visit to Beijing.

Yang Hengjun. Image: Twitter

Yang is a novelist and commentator who previously worked as a foreign diplomat in Beijing before becoming an Australian citizen.

On January 18, he flew from New York to the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, reportedly with his wife and son, but did not board his connecting flight to Shanghai.

He was detained by 10 security agents shortly after arriving at the airport, Fairfax Media reports.

Former China correspondent John Garnut described Yang as “not only brilliant but extraordinarily popular among the Chinese-speaking world and a courageous and committed democrat”.

“This will reverberate globally if authorities do not quickly find an off-ramp,” Garnut wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.

Similar concerns for Yang's safety were raised on a trip to China in 2011 prompting fears he was missing, but he later claimed the incident was a "misunderstanding".

It comes as two cases of Canadian citizens Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were detained in China in recent weeks.

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Pyne is visiting Beijing on Thursday where he will meet with his counterpart, Minister of National Defence General Wei Fenghe, and other senior Chinese officials to discuss regional security and bilateral issues.

The issue is likely to be raised by the minister during the meetings.

"The government is committed to maintaining a long-term constructive relationship with China, founded on shared interests and mutual respect -- China and Australia's success will go hand-in-hand," Pyne said in a statement earlier this week.

With AAP. 

Contact the author ebrancatisano@networkten.com.au

Feautured image: Twitter