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Originally from Beijing, Ms Yang first went to Tanzania in the 1970s. She was one of the first Chinese students to graduate in Swahili and worked as a translator for Tazara, the Tanzania-Zambia Railway project that China was helping to fund and build.
According to China Daily, after the railway was completed in 1975 she returned to Beijing to work in the government's foreign trade department.
It wasn't until 1998 that she decided to set up business in Tanzania. In fact, she set up two.
She rented a two-storey building in downtown Dar-es-Salaam, opening a Chinese restaurant on the ground floor and establishing an investment company, Beijing Great Wall Investment, on the floor above.
The restaurant proved to be a success but in 2014 she told China Daily: "Now I do not count on the restaurant to make money. Instead, I see it as a place where people from China and Tanzania can communicate, get to know more friends and conduct information exchanges."
She has spoken of her attachment to Tanzania, both physical and emotional. Her daughter is named Fei, the first character of the word for Africa in Mandarin.
By 2012 she was secretary-general of the Tanzania China-Africa Business Council.
"I know I should have retired, but whenever I think that my language advantage and network can help many Chinese and Tanzanians and increase mutual trust and confidence, I do not want to stop. I myself am the best illustration of China-Tanzania friendship," she said in 2014.
Car chase arrest
But at the same time, investigators say, Ms Yang was a major player in a far darker relationship developing between Tanzania and China - the illegal ivory trade.
They say she was a key link between poachers in East Africa and buyers in China for more than a decade.
Tanzania's National and Transnational Serious Crimes Investigation Unit tracked her for more than a year. She was arrested after a high-speed car chase in October 2015 and charged with ivory smuggling between 2000 and 2014.