Yang Hengjun, author and former Chinese diplomat, who is now an Australian citizen, gestures in an unspecified location in Tibet, China, sometime in mid-July, 2014.
Yang Hengjun, author and former Chinese diplomat, who is now an Australian citizen, gestures in an unspecified location in Tibet, China, sometime in mid-July, 2014.

WASHINGTON - The Australian government has confirmed that a dual Chinese-Australian dissident and writer has been detained in his native country.

Yang Hengjun, a former Chinese diplomat turned democracy activist and novelist, was detained by security agents at the airport in the southern city of Guangzhou last Friday after arriving with his wife and stepdaughter after a flight from New York. The family was set to catch a connecting flight to Shanghai. 

In a statement issued Thursday, Foreign Minister Marise Payne called on Beijing to treat Yang’s case “transparently and fairly.” She said embassy officials will meet with Chinese authorities there “to seek further clarification” on Yang’s case and arrange consular access with him as soon as possible.

Yang is currently a visiting scholar at Columbia University in New York. His detention in China occurs 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 on December 1 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.