China Hands Down Suspended Death Sentence to Dual Citizen

( – Chinese authorities have handed down a suspended death sentence to an Australian citizen accused of espionage. Yang Jun, who has dual Chinese-Australian nationality, has been in jail for five years, having been detained during a trip to China in 2019 and accused of spying. The dissident writer, who uses the pen name Yang Hengjun, denied espionage allegations and told supporters that the Beijing regime tortured him.

In one of the toughest sentences imposed for espionage for some years, foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Yang was found guilty and given a two-year suspended death sentence, adding that the state had confiscated all his property. He will remain imprisoned, and in two years, the death sentence will likely change to life in jail.

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said she is outraged at the sentence. “The Australian government is appalled at this outcome. We will be communicating our response in the strongest terms,” she said. China responded, saying it “urges” Australia to “respect China’s judicial sovereignty.”

Mr. Yang is a popular author who frequently writes spy novels and has called for greater freedom in his native country. Some experts and commentators suggest that the harsh sentence is intended to send a message to Chinese dissidents and authors that criticism of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will not be tolerated.

Writing for the Guardian, Richard McGregor said the sentence will likely impact relations between China and Australia, which have improved in recent years and are lauded as a foreign policy success by Prime Minister Antony Albanese. The sentence could prove particularly challenging for Australia, as it comes so soon after another Chinese-Australian dissident was released from prison last October.

Journalist Cheng Lee, who lived and worked in Melbourne, spent three years in a Chinese prison on charges that have never been made public. She described her time in jail as “like being buried alive” because she saw no sunlight and was held in a small room with no human contact.

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