A Chinese court on Monday handed a suspended death sentence to a China-born Australian democracy blogger. The Australian government, which has raised his case several times over the years, said it was appalled.
Yang Hengjun was convicted of espionage and sentenced to death with a two-year suspended sentence, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said. These sentences are often commuted to life in prison after these two years.
“The Australian government is dismayed,” Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said in a statement. “This is heartbreaking news for Dr. Yang, his family and everyone who supported him.”
Yang, a former Chinese diplomat and state security official turned political commentator and author of spy novels in Australia, was arrested on January 19, 2019, as he arrived in Guangzhou, southern China , coming from New York with his wife and teenage son. beautiful girl.
He was tried behind closed doors in May 2021. Details of his case have not been disclosed. Yang, who became an Australian citizen in 2002, has denied working as a spy for Australia or the United States.
Fear for his life
In a letter to his sons in August last year, Yang said he had not been exposed to direct sunlight for more than four years. He told his family he feared he would die in custody after being diagnosed with a kidney cyst, prompting his supporters to demand his release for medical treatment.
Australia will “communicate its response in the strongest terms” and continue to press for its interests and well-being, including appropriate medical care, Australia’s foreign minister said in her statement.
Wang, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, said the court had protected Yang’s procedural rights and arranged for the Australian side to attend the sentencing on Monday, likely referring to one or more diplomats from the Australian embassy.
In October last year, Australian journalist Cheng Lei was released after more than three years in detention in China for violating an embargo during a broadcast on a state television channel.
The fate of Yang and Cheng has often been on the agenda of high-level meetings between the two countries in recent years.