Australia asks for answers on dissident missing in China

Once described as China’s “most influential political blogger,” Yang went missing once before in 2011, describing his disappearance as a “misunderstanding” when he resurfaced days later. (File/AFP)
Updated 23 January 2019
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Australia asks for answers on dissident missing in China

  • Yang Hengjun went missing shortly after he returned to the southern city of Guangzhou last week
  • His disappearance prompted fears that he may be the latest victim of an increasingly broad dragnet by Chinese security services

SYDNEY: Australia is investigating reports a Chinese-Australian dissident is missing and may have been detained in his native country, officials said Wednesday.
Yang Hengjun — a novelist, former Chinese diplomat and democracy activist — went missing shortly after he returned to the southern city of Guangzhou last week, friends said.
When asked about Yang’s case, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was “seeking information about an Australian citizen who has been reported missing in China.”
“Owing to our privacy obligations we will not provide further comment,” a spokesman told AFP.
The Australian government is believed to be in contact with Yang’s friends and family, as well as Chinese authorities.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Yang had returned to China with his wife and son on January 18, but never made a planned internal flight to Shanghai.
His disappearance prompted fears that he may be the latest victim of an increasingly broad dragnet by Chinese security services.
Australia recently expressed concern about China’s detention of two Canadians in apparent retaliation for the arrest in Canada of a senior Huawei executive.
Yang’s friend and journalist John Garnaut described him as “brilliant” and “a courageous and committed democrat.”
“This will reverberate globally if authorities do not quickly find an off-ramp,” he warned.
Yang had worked in the ministry of foreign affairs in Hainan province, but later left for Hong Kong in 1992 and the US in 1997 where he worked for the Atlantic Council think tank.
He later took up Australian citizenship — although Beijing does not recognize dual nationality — and wrote a series of spy novels and a popular Chinese-language blog.
Once described as China’s “most influential political blogger,” Yang went missing once before in 2011, describing his disappearance as a “misunderstanding” when he resurfaced days later.


Rescuers find 14 bodies after building collapse in India

Updated 15 min 58 sec ago
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Rescuers find 14 bodies after building collapse in India

  • Dozens of rescuers worked overnight at the site where the four-story building collapsed
  • Building was nearly 100 years old and 15 families were living there

MUMBAI, India: Rescuers found 14 bodies and pulled out 11 survivors as they began winding down operations at the site of a dilapidated building that collapsed in India’s financial capital of Mumbai, an official said Wednesday.
Bijendra Dahiya, a National Disaster Response Force official, said workers were still looking for two to three people feared trapped in the rubble.
Dozens of rescuers worked overnight at the site where the four-story building collapsed on Tuesday, fire official Ashok Talpade said. The survivors included a child who was treated at a hospital and allowed to go home. Others remain hospitalized, Talpade said.
A 16-year-old girl trapped under a heavy door was taken out by rescuers who cut through iron beams and cleared debris using hydraulic cutters.
Dahiya said it had taken more than 24 hours to clear most of debris as the lane where the collapse occurred was too narrow for rescue vehicles. Most of the equipment was carried by hand and people also formed a human chain to remove debris.
Heavy monsoon rains fall in India from June to September, causing severe flooding and collapsing poorly built and dilapidated structures.
At least four other collapses have occurred this month in Mumbai and another western city, Pune, killing at least 31 people. On Sunday, a building collapse in the northern town of Solan killed 14 people.
Maharashtra state’s top elected official, Devendra Fadanavis, said the building that collapsed Tuesday was nearly 100 years old and 15 families were living there.
Talpade said the families had stayed after being asked to leave. Waris Pathan, an opposition lawmaker, said the building was a death trap, with authorities saying they had no money to rebuild the structure.