Mr Mo, who was appointed by Mr Yang’s family, said his client was being held under “residential surveillance” in Beijing, rather than at a prison facility in the capital.
This is often the way with sensitive cases involving national security and suggests Mr Yang is at a facility controlled by the Beijing State Security Bureau, which is responsible for his case.
As the diplomatic pressure moved up a gear, Defence Minister Christopher Pyne pledged to raise the matter at a meeting with his counterpart in Beijing on Thursday evening. Foreign Minister, Marise Payne said she was concerned about the detention of Mr Yang and sought to ensure the process was “fair and transparent”.
“I am very concerned and the government is very concerned about the nature of Mr Yang’s detention,” she said in Sydney.
But Ms Payne sought to play down any connection with the detention of two Canadians in China following the arrest of a senior Huawei executive, Meng Wanzhou, in Vancouver.
“At this stage there is no evidence of such a connection … I would be concerned if there was any indication of that,” she said.
Ms Payne said the government would not be updating its travel advice for Australians visiting China, even as senior business figures raised the alarm.
Stephen Joske, who spent 15 years in China as a diplomat and economist with Australian Super, said travel to the mainland was no longer safe.
“I would not go there full stop … the risk of something going wrong is extremely high,” he said from Canberra.
“People should immediately adjust their travel plans.”
Mr Joske said the detention of Mr Yang “sent a very strong message that China was not safe”.
“When something goes wrong there is just no warning,” he said.
Australian business executives, bankers and lawyers living in China have also expressed growing concerns about the operating environment.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity as they did not want to upset the authorities in China, many said tighter scrutiny of individuals and companies for minor breaches of local laws, along with higher taxes for foreigners living in China and a slowing economy were making the environment more difficult.
“People are watching the Huawei situation closely. They are nervous,” one businessman said.
For Australians living in China there are fears a senior executive may also be locked up to make a political point.
Business executives in China are privately alarmed by the detention of the two Canadians, and now an Australian citizen, which they say is another factor making it harder to do business in the world’s second-largest economy.
“China has no direct interest in spooking the business community but if you are under investigation then China may take bolder action,” said one risk consultant who advises corporates on crisis management in China.
The advice to major Australian companies in China is to consider leaving if you believe you are under investigation or have broken any rules whatsoever. If you are fully abiding by local laws and regulations, rather than skirting around the edges, then there is less to worry about.
China confirmed the detention of Mr Yang early on Thursday morning and Australia officials are now seeking consular access to him.
China was late in notifying Australia of Mr Yang’s detention and has been slow in allowing a consular visit.
Former prime minister Kevin Rudd highlighted the lack of process on Twitter.
“Yang Hengjun is an Australian citizen just like the rest of us with equal rights and protections,” Mr Rudd wrote.
“China has an international legal obligation under Article 12 of our 1999 Treaty for full consular access & to advise what Chinese law he is alleged to have breached.”