Australian writer given suspended death sentence in China
Yang Hengjun, arrested in 2019, was accused of spying for a foreign country China has not publicly revealed.
A Beijing court on Monday handed down a suspended death sentence to Yang Hengjun, a Chinese-Australian author detained on suspicion of espionage for more than five years without trial, according to media reports.
Yang, a pro-democracy blogger, is an Australian citizen of Chinese descent who was working in New York before his arrest at Guangzhou airport in 2019. He was accused of espionage on behalf of a nation that China has not disclosed nor made public the details of the case against him.
Yang’s colleague, Sydney University of Technology professor Feng Chongyi, said a Chinese court had sentenced him to a suspended death sentence that would convert to life imprisonment after two years, which was relayed to his family, Reuters reported on Monday.
Feng told Reuters that it was a “serious case of injustice,” adding that Yang had denied the charges.
“He is punished by the Chinese government for his criticism of human rights abuses in China and his advocacy for universal values such as human rights, democracy and rule of law,” Feng said, as cited by Reuters.
Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said on Monday that Australia is “appalled” at the court’s decision and has called in China’s ambassador.
Wong added that the Australian government understood the sentence can be commuted to life imprisonment after two years if the individual does not commit any serious crimes in that period.
“This is a decision within China’s legal system. Clearly, this is an occasion [on] which we disagree. However, Australia will continue to advocate for the interests of Yang,” she said. “This is harrowing news for Dr. Yang, his family and all who have supported him.”