Yang Hengjun, an Australian writer and democracy activist who is currently being detained in China, has reportedly been interrogated daily by Chinese officials in isolation, his ankles and wrists shackled, and cut off from any communication from friends or family, his lawyers said on Sunday. Hengjun’s attorneys described his treatment by Chinese officials as part of a mission to “break” the writer and force him to confess to being a spy. The 53-year-old Chinese-Australian blogger, who has been critical of the Chinese government, was arrested in January in Guangzhou, China, after a flight from New York where he was studying at Columbia University as a visiting scholar—his second time in Chinese custody. Yang, who worked for the Chinese foreign ministry before becoming a citizen in Australia, is allegedly fed at least nine pills a day for health problems like high blood pressure and kidney complications, according to his legal team. One of his lawyers in Melbourne, Australia told the New York Times, “We’re concerned because he went in as a fit and healthy man,” adding that, “Now he has this purported diagnosis and is being fed a concoction of drugs.”
These new revelations about Yang’s detainment surfaced amid an already-tense relationship between China and Australia, and his case is part of a greater pool of writers and activists who have disappeared into custody at the hands of Chinese authorities.