Suspended Death Sentence for Australian Democracy Blogger in China
An Australian democracy blogger, Dr. Yang, has been given a suspended death sentence in China for espionage. Australian officials express their dismay and vow to advocate for his well-being.
Troy D. Hanson
February 05, 2024
Yang was found guilty of espionage and given a death sentence with a two-year reprieve, according to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin. It is common for such sentences to be commuted to life imprisonment after the initial two-year period.
Reacting to the news, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong expressed her dismay in a statement, stating, "The Australian Government is appalled. This is harrowing news for Dr. Yang, his family, and all who have supported him."
The incident dates back to January 19, 2019, when Yang, along with his wife and teenage stepdaughter, was detained upon their arrival in Guangzhou from New York. A former Chinese diplomat and state security agent turned political commentator and writer of spy novels in Australia, Yang stood trial behind closed doors in May 2021. The exact details of his case have not been made public. Throughout the process, Yang, who became an Australian citizen in 2002, vehemently denied any involvement in espionage for Australia or the United States.
In August of last year, Yang wrote a heartfelt letter to his sons, revealing that he had not seen direct sunlight for over four years. He expressed concerns about his health after being diagnosed with a kidney cyst and feared he might die in detention. Supporters rallied behind his plea for medical treatment and release.
In response to the verdict, the Australian foreign minister affirmed that Australia will strongly convey its response and continue to advocate for Yang's interests and well-being, including appropriate medical care.
Wang, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, highlighted that the court had protected Yang's procedural rights and provided the opportunity for the Australian side to attend Monday's sentencing, likely referring to a diplomat or diplomats from the Australian Embassy.
This case comes after the release of Australian journalist Cheng Lei in October last year. Cheng had spent over three years in detention in China for breaking an embargo with a television broadcast on a state-run network. Both the cases of Yang and Cheng have been ongoing topics of discussion during high-level meetings between China and Australia in recent years.