Despite high-profile lobbying, the negotiators have yet to reach an agreement with their Chinese counterparts. Other trade disputes that have dominated three years of acrimony between Beijing and Canberra appear to be slowly winding down after some Chinese importers were given the go-ahead to start buying Australian coal again last week.
Yang, a pro-democracy writer who has a PhD from Sydney University of Technology, was allowed a consular visit last week for the first time since the latest COVID outbreak began in Beijing in November.
“We met him recently. Family members are not allowed to visit him now because, according to Chinese law, no family visit is allowed before a criminal case is sentenced and takes effect,” Mo said.
“It was good. It seems that she had COVID for a few days, she suffered from fever and aches. He was quarantined with a couple of other covid-infected inmates for some time.”
Cheng has also been granted consular visits for the first time in months and is in relatively good spirits as news of improved diplomatic relations trickles from his supporters to prison cells. The 47-year-old Melbourne mother of two has been teaching her cellmates English through song lyrics and reading the books of two other Australians detained by foreign governments, Kylie Moore-Gilbert and Peter Greste.
Mo said Yang had been able to access information about the developments, a significant improvement on the months of torture and isolation he endured after he was first arrested.
“He can watch the news there. He caught the news about improving China-Australia relations,” he said.
“I told him it’s a good thing for your case. We cannot draw a conclusion, but it depends on the outcome of the negotiation between the two countries.”
Commerce Minister Don Farrell is expected to visit Beijing in February. Albanese noted “further steps and activities indicating a greatly improved relationship” in December. He will visit China for the 50th anniversary of Gough Whitlam’s first visit to the country as prime minister in October.
Foreign Minister Penny Wong was contacted for comment.
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