Why Yang Hengjun should be released – he’s Walter Mitty not James Bond!Feb 8, 2024
The standard media news bite is that Yang Hengjun is a Chinese born Australian pro-democracy writer who was unlawfully detained and now jailed for life in China. But the full story is murkier than that.
One take on Yang is that he was a Chinese communist spy who defected to the west where he became an anti-communist/pro-democracy blogger with a huge following inside China. He also wrote a trilogy of spy novels about a Chinese-US double agent called Yang which he didn’t to deny was about himself. He was arrested when returning to China in 2019 for espionage.
Another view is that after his first arrest on returning to China in 2011 he was released on the understanding he would continue his pro-democracy blogging from the West but as a security agent for China. As a result he was not only given freedom to travel to and from China, but also access to important communist figures. He developed a mass audience within China. But by 2019 China’s Ministry of State Security decided he had gone feral so arrested him on his next visit to China that year.
I suspect he is a Mr Bean who tried to be a James Bond but ended up a Walter Mitty who believed he could actively promote democracy in China with the blessing of the Chinese Communist Party and Ministry of State Security by playing both sides of the fence.
That might explain why after he was released in 2011 he was allowed to revisit China multiple times over an eight year period before his arrest at Guangzhou airport.
I hope he is released as a delusional Walter Mitty rather than a threat to China’s state security.
For more on this topic, P&I recommends: