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The Arrest of Yang Hengjun

The Chinese government arrested Yang Hengjun (杨恒均), a China-born Australian citizen on January 19, 2019. On April 8, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation aired an interview with his wife who appeared (on the show) in tears, asking the Australian government to rescue her husband.

This news created some heated discussions among some Chinese media for the following reasons:

First, Yang has been writing articles promoting democracy after he began living outside of China. He built up a large reader base. In January, he flew, with his wife and daughter, from New York to Guangzhou where he was arrested at the Guangzhou airport. On the surface, his arrest appeared to be the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) retaliation against a democracy promoter.

Second, Yang’s wife, Yuan Xiaoqian (袁小靓) has the pen name of “Ran Xiang (染香).” “Ran Xiang” is one of the biggest “fifty cents” writers. “Fifty cents” people refers to Chinese who copy and paste government-fed materials on the Internet to praise the CCP or to echo the party’s position. At the beginning, they were paid 50 cents for every posting  and therefore obtained the name of “50 cents.” Now some die-hard party supporters do that even if they are not paid. In China, there are a few super-big “fifty cents” writers who frequently write their own articles to brown-nose the CCP. “Ran Xiang” is one of them. She used to attack Western democracy and freedom, claiming that the CCP’s dictatorship is the best democracy or that “democracy will not succeed in Asia.”

These super-big “fifty cents” writers are supposed to be the favorites of the CCP, but there is a bit of irony here. Even the biggest “fifty cents” writer cannot protest about her husband and has to go to a Western country that she belittled to ask for help on the grounds of human rights.

The third is the most controversial one: Yang is actually not a democracy promoter but rather the main executor of the CCP’s “Big Global Propaganda (大外宣)” strategy. His position of promoting democracy is just a disguise.

Some evidence includes that, despite the fact that Yang had been talking about democracy for a decade, he was invited to attend Beijing’s celebration of National Day (October 1) at the Great Hall of the People in 2014. Only high-ranking government officials and people with an extremely high status can attend that gathering. In addition, 35 owners/managers of overseas Chinese media (the CCP’s Propaganda Department has directly controlled or invested in most of them) formed the International New Media Cooperation Organization in Beijing on December 11, 2014. Yang was elected as the Chairman.

If Yang was indeed working for the CCP, why did the CCP arrest him? One theory is that he may belong to the faction of Jiang Zemin and Zeng Qinghong. After Xi Jinping cleansed Jiang’s loyalists from the State Security Ministry, Yang was abandoned and eventually arrested.

Yang’s being a CCP spy is also a better explanation of why a democracy promoter (which Yang appeared to be) would marry a big “fifty cents” writer who was totally anti-democracy.

Yang, 53, graduated from the Department of International Politics of Fudan University (students from this department normally work in the state security or diplomat areas). He worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Hainan Provincial government, and at China’s state-owned enterprise in Hong Kong. In 2000, he became a naturalized citizen of Australia. He has been living with his family in the U.S. for the past few years.


1. The Epoch Times, April 11, 2019
2. Twitter

3. YouTube