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Australia seeking info on dual national missing in China

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Sydney (AFP)

Australia is investigating reports a dissident writer and Chinese dual national is missing and may have been detained in his native country, officials said Wednesday.

Yang Hengjun -- a novelist, former Chinese diplomat and democracy activist -- went missing shortly after he returned to the southern city of Guangzhou last week, friends said.

When asked about Yang's case, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was "seeking information about an Australian citizen who has been reported missing in China".

"Owing to our privacy obligations we will not provide further comment," a spokesman told AFP.

The Australian authorities are believed to be in contact with Yang's friends and family.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Yang had returned to China with his wife and son on January 18, but never made a planned internal flight to Shanghai.

His disappearance prompted fears that he may be the latest victim of an increasingly broad dragnet by the Chinese authorities.

Australia recently expressed concern about China's detention of two Canadians in retaliation for the arrest in Canada of a senior Huawei executive.

Yang's friend and journalist John Garnaut described him as "brilliant" and "a courageous and committed democrat".

"This will reverberate globally, if authorities do not quickly find an off-ramp," he warned.

Yang had worked in the ministry of foreign affairs, but later left China and wrote a series of spy novels and a popular Chinese-language blog.

Once described as China's "most influential political blogger", Yang went missing once before in 2011, describing his disappearance as a "misunderstanding" when he resurfaced days later.

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