SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – A well-known author and former Chinese official with Australian citizenship flew from New York to China on Friday despite warnings from friends who told him it was too dangerous.
Now he is missing and seems to have been detained by the Chinese authorities.
Author Yang Hengjun did not respond to his Chinese mobile phone despite repeated attempts to reach him on Tuesday and Wednesday. He also did not reply to messages about WeChat, the popular Chinese social media service.
Deng Yuwen, a Chinese journalist and current commentator who knows Mr Yang, said the author seemed to have disappeared shortly after landing in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou.
Australia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Commerce confirmed that the government "is seeking information on an Australian citizen who has been reported missing in China."
A spokeswoman for China's Foreign Ministry said she had no information on the case. US officials did not respond to requests for comments.
Mr. Yang was detained in 2011, but his disappearance now carries additional risk.
China's relationship with the United States and its democratic allies continues to worsen. A trade war between the two countries is rattling the Chinese economy. President Xi Jinping has pushed the country towards a more muscular mark of authoritarianism. And the December arrest in Canada by a senior leader of Huawei, China's main telecommunications company, has led to tantamount retaliation from China.
Last month, Chinese police detained two Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who officials in Beijing pushed Canada to free Meng Wanzhou, Huawei executive, for possible extradition to the United States on fraud charges.
If Mr. Yang's detention is prolonged, he may become another burden in Australia's volatile relations with China. Australia's economy has been inflected by commodity exports to China, especially iron ore. But in recent years, relations between the two countries have been concerned about Australian complaints of political interference from Beijing.
In May, Australia rejected Huawei's potential participation in the development of its 5G telephone network, a move that angered the Chinese government. 19659002] Mr. Yang, 53, a novelist and commentator working for the Chinese Foreign Ministry before moving to Australia and becoming a national in 2000, has spent the last two years with his family in New York, working as a visiting teacher at Columbia University.
In his writing, he has been critical of the Chinese government. But in recent years he has deprived interviews with the news media and avoided direct opposition to the communist party.
In December he retweeted one of his earlier articles on the rule of law in China, which said: "I trust the future, but without today's efforts and sacrifices, the future will never come. For people like me , the goal is the dream that the future will emerge earlier. "
Friends of his said that they had told him that none of his calibrated caution was important and that his Australian citizenship would not act as a deterrent because the Chinese Government sees some of Chinese descent as under the country's Communist Party.
"The purpose of his writing is clear – he wanted to educate people on democracy and universal values and has influenced many young people," said Weican Meng, a friend of Mr. Yang and the founder of Boxun News, a Chinese language site in the United States.
"Before going back to China, we had a meal together and a number of friends told him that it is not a good time to go," added Mr. Meng, whose pen name is Wei Shi. "The situation in China right now is a bit like during the Cultural Revolution: People are being punished for talking about very small things."
On Thursday, China's Public Security Minister Zhao Kezhi told a meeting of police officers in Beijing to protect against political subversion and attempt to capture "color revolution" against the government.
Mr. Yang's family and friends believe that Yang has been held in Beijing.
Feng Chongyi, a writer and associate professor at the University of Technology Sydney held by the Chinese authorities in 2017, said he had spoken to Mr. Yang's relatives. They told him that Yang had landed in Guangzhou early Friday morning, but that he did not make his scheduled connection to Shanghai, said Mr. Feng.
According to Mr. Feng went to Mr. Yang partly to China because his US visa was due to expire in a few months, and he was waiting for a residence permit in Australia for his wife and founder. They had traveled with him to China on this trip.
According to Mr. Talks were held with the author's relatives, Yang and his wife were interrogated for over 12 hours – probably at the airport in Guangzhou – before Mr. Yang's wife was then allowed to travel to Shanghai to hand over her daughter.
"In the home of Shanghai, Mr. Feng added," She was in tears and asked family members not to contact them again, but said she would send their whereabouts. "
The writer's wife, Yuan Rui Juan, sent a picture on her Weibo page Saturday from Beijing's main airport headed" It's been a long time, my eyes are full of tears. "
Mr Feng said family members were terrible and seemed to be silent about Mr. Yang's status." When asked about Yang's situation, they say they are unable to discuss the matter, "said "And they asked us not to ask."
Mr Feng said he had spoken with security sources in China and believes that Mr. Yang could be accused of espionage, a broad charge in China that can include simply discussing matters that the government considers sensitive.
In Mr. Yang's last blog post on his site, he praised President Trump for attempting to close "loopholes", as Mr Yang said, had allowed other governments and immigrants to Western countries exploiting the tolerance and hospitality of these communities.
Mr. Yang developed a great successor as a blogger in China in the previous decade and then an equally keen audience on WeChat, where he also announced lectures and classes that he charged a fee for 59002] One of his last announcements about WeChat invited readers to enroll in his classes to study and live in the United States, Australia and other Western countries, lessons that also include his "thoughts of history, economy, culture and politics."  Since Friday, his account is silent.