Missing Australia writer resurfaces in China

AP News
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Posted: Mar 31, 2011 10:59 AM

A Chinese-born Australian writer missing for several days in southern China has resurfaced, saying he is OK and apologizing for causing trouble.

In a brief phone interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, Yang Hengjun also said he is recovering but declined to elaborate. He expressed thanks to the public and the Australian government for their concern.

"I'm OK right now. Everything is OK. I'm just recovering," he said. "This trouble is caused by me."

Yang, who sounded flustered but relieved, said he is heading to Hong Kong on Saturday and then back home to Australia.

Though Yang gave no details during his phone call, he posted a longer explanation on Twitter late Thursday night.

"Due to personal reasons, on the night of March 27, I temporarily lost contact with family and friends for more than 50 hours, creating a great disturbance. I deeply apologize," he wrote in Chinese.

"In this sensitive period, this incident aroused concern from countless Internet friends and others. After I saw that, I could not help but cry. Thank you, all of you," he wrote.

The Sydney-based spy novelist and political blogger disappeared Sunday shortly after phoning his assistant from the airport in southern Guangzhou to say that three men were following him, according to a friend. His family feared he had been taken by secret police.

China has launched a massive crackdown against lawyers, writers and activists, arresting and detaining dozens since February when online calls for protests similar to those in the Middle East and North Africa began to circulate.

Yang's disappearance prompted alarm as the Australian government sought information from China about whether he had been detained.

Yang, 46, was an official in China's Foreign Ministry before moving to Australia. His novel "Fatal Weakness" deals with espionage between China and the United States and has been published on the Internet in China.

He also writes a blog that discusses sensitive issues, including widespread government corruption and the wealth gap that have accompanied China's rapid growth. His writings also have called for democracy, saying the power to make decisions lies with the people.

On Wednesday, after more than 48 hours, Yang called his assistant to say he was in a hospital but was healthy and had been out of contact because his cellphone ran out of power.

On Thursday, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said consular officials in Guangzhou had spoken with Yang, and that he said he had no health, welfare, safety or security concerns and had not been detained by authorities in China.

Though his account cast no blame, Yang did cast a parting shot at his former employer, China's Foreign Ministry, which has repeatedly denied having any information about him. Earlier this week, a ministry spokeswoman even stated, "I have not heard of that person."

In his posting, he wrote: "Protest: Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu: Do you really not know Yang Hengjun? This is not ignorance but shamelessness."

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Associated Press writer Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia, contributed to this report.