Australian Writer Given Suspended Death Sentence in China

Australian writer Yang Hengjun, who was arrested in China on espionage charges in 2019, has been handed a suspended death sentence by a court in Beijing.

The terms of the sentence mean Yang’s sentence could be commuted to life imprisonment for good behaviour.

“The Australian government is appalled by this outcome,” Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong told reporters as she confirmed the sentence, the SBS News outlet reported.

Wong said Canberra would be responding “in the strongest terms”, including by summoning the Chinese ambassador.

“I want to acknowledge the acute distress that Dr Yang and his family will be feeling today, coming after years of uncertainty,” she said.

The 58-year-old blogger and pro-democracy activist was arrested in January 2019 when he arrived at Guangzhou airport with his wife and was accused of having “endangered national security with particularly serious harm to the country and the people”.

Yang, a Chinese-born Australian, has denied the charges against him, as have his friends and family. A previous Australian government described the writer’s detention as “unacceptable”.

On Monday, supporters reacted with dismay to the sentence.

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Comfort Samuel

I work with TV360 Nigeria, as a broadcast journalist, producer and reporter. I'm so passionate on what I do.

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