Australia’s ambassador to China was on Thursday barred from the trial of an academic held on spying charges, in a case that has exacerbated a bitter row between the two nations.
The trial of Australian Yang Jun, detained for more than two years on accusations of espionage, was set to be held behind closed doors in Beijing with a heavy security presence outside the courthouse on Thursday morning.
Chinese-born Yang, 56, who also goes by the pen name of Yang Hengjun, is one of two high-profile Australians detained in China on charges of spying.
Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne on Thursday voiced deep concerns about China’s handling of the case, as a letter from Yang was released maintaining his innocence and referencing torture while being detained.
“We have not seen any explanation or evidence for the charges that have been brought against him,” Payne told ABC radio, adding she had hoped the trial would be “transparent” with consular officials granted access.
But Australian ambassador Graham Fletcher was turned away from the courtroom when he arrived on Thursday.
“This is deeply regrettable, concerning and unsatisfying,” Fletcher told the media outside the courtroom afterwards.
“We’ve long had concerns about this case, including a lack of transparency, and therefore conclude it to be an instance of arbitrary detention.”
Fletcher left the courthouse shortly afterwards. It was not immediately clear if Yang’s lawyer was with him, nor if the trial had started.
A convoy of police cars and vans was later seen arriving at the court, but it was not clear whether Yang was inside. Authorities gave the media no information about the case.
Yang was detained on a rare return to China in January 2019.
Beijing has outlined almost no details of the case against him since he was taken into custody.
In October, the foreign ministry confirmed that charges of “espionage” had been filed against Yang and the case has been accepted by the court, without giving more information.