China: RSF urges for release of ailing Australian political commentator denied medical treatment

Detained in China for “espionage” since January 2019, Yang Hengjun is denied medical care despite significant health deterioration. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urges for the release of Chinese-born Australian political commentator.

According to his friends, Chinese-born Australian political commentator Yang Hengjun, 58, was recently diagnosed with a cyst on his kidney.  He has been ill for months, and until now had not been allowed to see a doctor by the Beijing detention center’s authorities. Yang has apparently not been informed about the details of the diagnosis or the treatment options. 

Yang has spent the last four years in a 1.2 metre-wide cell in Beijing with two other prisoners. In 2020, he claimed that he had been subjected to torture, including more than 300 interrogations while in detention.

“It has unfortunately become common practice for the Chinese regime to deny medical care to detained journalists, and we fear that a prolonged detention of Yang Hengjun in such conditions would put a threat on his life. We urge democracies, and in particular the Australian government, to step up pressure on China and secure Yang’s release before it’s too late.

Cédric Alviani
RSF Asia-Pacific Bureau Director

Yang Hengjun, who in the past published several articles critical of the Chinese regime in the prominent international affairs magazine The Diplomat, was arrested in January 2019 during his trip with family to China and later charged with “espionage”. His trial was held in May 2021, but the verdict announcement has been repeatedly delayed over the past two years. 

In China, detained journalists are almost systematically subjected to mistreatment and denied medical care: Nobel Peace Prize and RSF Press Freedom Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo and political commentator Yang Tongyan both died in 2017 from cancer that was left untreated in detention, while Kunchok Jinpa, a leading source of information about Tibet for journalists, died in 2021 as a result of mistreatment. Along with Yang, other press freedom defenders may soon suffer a deadly fate, including two ailing journalists Zhang Zhan and Huang Xueqin.

Since Chinese leader Xi Jinping took power in 2012, he has been conducting a large-scale crusade against journalism, as revealed in RSF’s report The Great Leap Backwards of Journalism in China, which details Beijing’s efforts to control information and media within and outside its borders.

China ranks 179th out of 180 in the 2023 RSF World Press Freedom Index and is the world's largest captor of journalists and press freedom defenders with at least 114 detained.

179/ 180
Score : 22.97
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