Yang Hengjun, who is a renowned writer and blogger, has been incarcerated in China since 2019. He is facing charges of espionage. The Australian government has voiced its objections to the conviction of Yang, who holds Australian citizenship.
Reporting from China indicates that pro-democracy advocate and blogger Yang Hengjun has been handed a suspended death sentence, according to news agencies AFP and Reuters.
While Yang is known to have been charged with crimes related to espionage, the Chinese government has not revealed the country he is accused of spying for. Further details about the case remain undisclosed.
The Australian government has expressed outrage at this development, with news agency AFP describing their reaction as “infuriating”.
“The Australian government is outraged by this outcome,” said Penny Wong, Australia’s foreign minister, during a press conference.
The verdict has also been confirmed by a human rights lawyer based in Beijing who has been following the case. This lawyer has chosen to remain anonymous.
Yang, who was born in China, is a citizen of Australia. The Australian government has announced plans to invite the Chinese ambassador to discuss Australia’s objections to the verdict.
Provided certain conditions are met, the death sentence will be commuted to a life sentence after two years, says Sydney-based researcher Feng Chongyi, as reported by Reuters.
Yang, who was previously based in New York, was arrested in 2019 at Guangzhou Airport. His arrest coincided with a period of deteriorating relations between Australia and China.
Last year, China released another Australian citizen of Chinese origin, Cheng Lein, during Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s visit, so there were hopes for Yang’s release as well.
Yang is reported to have experienced health issues during his incarceration. Researcher Feng Chongyi has criticized the sentence as grossly unjust and called upon the Australian government to seek Yang’s parole on the grounds of health concerns.