Chinese-Australian novelist and former diplomat Yang Hengjun. Photo: Yang Hengjun/Twitter

The Australian government said in a statement Tuesday it's "very concerned" that Chinese-Australian writer Yang Hengjun has been formally arrested on espionage charges in China after being in detention for months.

Why it matters: The arrest of the New York-based writer comes at a tense time between Australia and China after the U.S. pressed Australia to take a stronger stance against Beijing, per the New York Times, which notes that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on a recent trip to Sydney that China’s increasingly aggressive behavior worldwide required greater attention and pushback.

Dr Yang has been held in Beijing in harsh conditions without charge for more than seven months. Since that time, China has not explained the reasons for Dr Yang's detention."
— Statement by Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne

The big picture: Before his detention, the novelist and former Chinese diplomat spent 2 years with his family in New York, where he was a visiting scholar at Columbia University, according to NYT. He traveled to China in January with his wife, Yuan Ruijuan, and her child, where he was detained at the airport in Guangzhou, per the BBC.

  • He was active on Chinese social media and Twitter, where he had about 130,000 followers and was known as "the democracy peddler," though he had not been directly critical of Chinese authorities in recent years, the BBC notes.
  • Yang has been arrested because of his "political beliefs" and should be released, Payne said in the statement.

Go deeper

Senate to vote on Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation on Oct. 26

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the Capitol on Oct. 20. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

The Senate will vote to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court next Monday, Oct. 26, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced Tuesday.

The big picture: The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote this Thursday to advance Barrett's nomination to the full Senate floor. Democrats have acknowledged that there's nothing procedurally they can do to stop Barrett's confirmation, which will take place just one week out from Election Day.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

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  4. World: Ireland moving back into lockdown — Argentina becomes 5th country to report 1 million infections.

Meadows confirms Trump's tweets "declassifying" Russia documents were false

Photo: Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows confirmed in court on Tuesday that President Trump's tweets authorizing the disclosure of documents related to the Russia investigation and Hillary Clinton's emails "were not self-executing declassification orders," after a federal judge demanded that Trump be asked about his intentions.

Why it matters: BuzzFeed News reporter Jason Leopold cited the tweets in an emergency motion seeking to gain access to special counsel Robert Mueller's unredacted report as part of a Freedom of Information Act request. This is the first time Trump himself has indicated, according to Meadows, that his tweets are not official directives.

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