"Missing" Chinese-Australian writer says he will head home

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 01, 2011 12:38 AM
"Missing" Chinese-Australian writer says he will head home

BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese-Australian writer whose disappearance in China ignited alarm during a crackdown on dissent said on Friday he is safe and plans to return to Australia in coming days.

The novelist and blogger, Yang Hengjun, an Australian national born in China, was reported by friends to be missing on Sunday, prompting concern from Australia, whose Prime Minister Julia Gillard is due to visit China this month.

On Wednesday, Yang contacted friends who feared he had been held by security police in Guangdong province in far southern China in a crackdown on dissidents. Yang often visits China and keeps a Chinese-language blog that airs his liberal views.

In a brief telephone interview, Yang told Reuters he was "okay" and was preparing to head to Hong Kong on Saturday and later back to Australia.

"I'm very good now, but it's not convenient for me to say more," he said. "I'll be going back to Australia. I'm able to leave," he said. He did not give a precise date for his return to Australia.

Yang's word that he can return to Australia may partly remove some of the friction about the case that could have clouded Prime Minister Gillard's planned visit to Beijing.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade had raised concerns about Yang with the Chinese embassy in Canberra.

More than 100 Chinese activists have been detained, subjected to monitoring by security forces or gone missing since February, particularly after online calls for "Jasmine Revolution" gatherings, according to Amnesty International.

Yang's friends feared he had been detained because of his contacts with dissidents. But Yang has told some of them that he was out of contact because he was ill.

That statement was met with skepticism by those who believe he was held by Chinese security officials but does not want to court more trouble by saying so.

In the telephone interview, Yang insisted he had been sick.

"I wasn't feeling too well," he said of his days out of contact. "Now's not the time to explain more."

(Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Ken Wills and Sugita Katyal)