Yang Hengjun
Detained Australian Yang Hengjun. (Image: AP/Zhan min)

The arrest of Chinese-Australian author and democracy promoter Yang Hengjun has triggered an overdue but welcome change in attitude by Canberra towards the fate of Australians effectively kidnapped by Beijing’s authoritarian government.

It’s probably wishful to think that Yang, who was originally detained in January 2019 on spying charges, will be released because of this change. But there is another goal here: making sure that accusations of spying are comprehensively denied at the highest levels in Canberra. In that way Beijing should at least give a second thought to treating any other Australian in such appalling fashion.

As Crikey has noted, Foreign Minister Marise Payne has been unusually direct in her criticism of China over Yang’s arrest. She has baldly stated that Yang is not an Australian spy and has all but said that he has been at least mistreated, if not tortured: