China sentenced to death a dissident writer whom it accused of espionage

Yang Hengjun and his wife Yuan Xiaoliang. (Chongyi Feng via AP, file)

He Chinese-Australian dissident writer Yang Jun was sentenced to suspended death on Monday for espionage in Chinasaid Bejing, five years after being detained on a rare visit to his homeland.

The Chinese-born Australian citizen has been in jail since 2019 for espionage accusations and it is said that He is in poor health.

The writer, whose pseudonym is Yang Hengjunhas denied the allegations, telling his supporters that He was tortured in a secret detention center and that he feared that forced confessions could be used against him.

His sentence is one of China’s harshest in a public espionage trial in years.

Yangwho gained a large following in exile for his spy novels and his calls for greater freedom in his homelandwas convicted on Monday by a Beijing court “in an espionage case,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported.

“The court found Yang Jun guilty of espionage, sentenced to death with a two-year suspension of execution and confiscated all his personal property”he declared Wang Wenbinspokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

One of the entrances to Beijing Intermediate People's Court No. 2, where Yang Hengjun was tried on espionage charges (REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/file)
One of the entrances to Beijing Intermediate People’s Court No. 2, where Yang Hengjun was tried on espionage charges (REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/file) (CARLOS GARCIA RAWLINS/)

Canberra has condemned the death penaltywhich, he said, could commuted to life imprisonment after a period of two years, during which Yang would remain imprisoned.

“The Australian government is dismayed by this result”declared the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Penny Wongin a press conference.

“We will communicate our response in the strongest terms“said the Australian minister.

Wong said the Chinese ambassador to Australia, Xiao Qianwould be summoned to hear the government’s objection.

“I want to recognize the acute anguish that Dr. Yang and his family will be feeling todayafter years of uncertainty,” he declared.

He Yang’s verdict and sentencing have been repeatedly delayed since his closed-door trial on national security charges in May 2021, he said.

Canberra had consistently asked “basic standards of justice, procedural fairness and humane treatment”said.

“Australia will not relent in its defense of justice for Dr Yang’s interests and well-being, including appropriate medical treatment,” the minister said.

“All Australians want Dr Yang to be reunited with his family”Wong said.

Who can speak on my behalf?

Chinese-Australian writer Yang Jun, also known as Yang Hengjun, has been sentenced to a suspended death sentence.  (AP)
Chinese-Australian writer Yang Jun, also known as Yang Hengjun, has been sentenced to a suspended death sentence. (AP)

The suspension of the death penalty is considered a setback in relations between Australia and Chinawhich seemed to be improving.

The Australian journalist Cheng Lei He was released in October, after more than three years of detention, accused of espionage for political reasons.

Yang’s friends said last year that he feared he would die in prison without proper medical treatment due to a cyst growing on his kidney.

“If something happens to my health and I die here, people outside will not know the truth.”, he said in a note shared with friends and supporters. “If something happens to me, who can speak for me?”

Human Rights Watch also condemned the “catastrophic” judgment.

“After years of arbitrary detention, allegations of torture, a closed and unfair trial without access to his own choice of lawyers, “A sentence as harsh as this is alarming,” said Human Rights Watch Australia director Daniela Gavshon.

Yang Hengjun in a photo from 2014 (REUTERS)
Yang Hengjun in a photo from 2014 (REUTERS) (SOCIAL MEDIA/)

The Tensions between Canberra and Beijing increased in 2018 when Australia excluded the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei from his 5G network.

Then in 2020, Australia called for an international investigation into the origins of Covid-19, a move China considered politically motivated.

In response, Beijing imposed high tariffs on key Australian exportssuch as barley, beef and wine, and halted its coal imports.

Most of these tariffs have been removed under the current center-left government of the Prime Minister Anthony Albanesewho made a trip to Beijing in November 2023 in which he described the progress as “undoubtedly very positive.”

However, there is still security tensionsas Australia is moving closer to the United States in an effort to curb China’s growing influence in the region. South Pacific.

(With information from AFP)