Writer Yang Hengjun is seen in an undated photo (Source - Radio Free Asia)
FILE - Writer Yang Hengjun is seen in an undated photo (Source - Radio Free Asia)

Australia says it has learned that a dual Chinese-Australian dissident and writer who has been detained in his native country since January has been moved to a detention center in Beijing.  

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said Thursday it learned from Yang Hengjun's family about his transfer, and was seeking confirmation from its Chinese counterparts. The ministry says Yang is facing possible charges of endangering state security.

"Australia continues to have consular access and have again asked that he be granted immediate access to his lawyers,'' the ministry said in a written statement.

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters that Yang's case is being investigated by state security authorities, and that Yang's legal rights are being fully protected.

Security agents detained the former Chinese diplomat turned democracy activist and novelist at the airport in the southern city of Guangzhou after he, his wife and stepdaughter arrived on a flight from New York. The family was set to take a connecting flight to Shanghai.

Yang is currently a visiting scholar at Columbia University in New York. The latest development comes amid the detention of two Canadian nationals in China in apparent retaliation for the arrest of a senior Chinese executive in Canada.

Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer for Chinese telecom giant Huawei, was arrested in Vancouver last December on behalf of the United States, which is seeking her extradition over alleged violations of U.S. trade sanctions on Iran.

Yang may also be the latest in a string of activists and human rights lawyers who have been detained in a sweeping crackdown on dissidents since President Xi Jinping took power in 2012.