SYDNEY: Following several years of tense relations between Beijing and Canberra, a Beijing court on Monday ( Feb) granted Australian writer Yang Hengjun espionage charges and suspended his death sentence.
Yang’s family and supporters were surprised by the verdict, which was delivered five years after he was imprisoned in China and three years following his closed-door trial for espionage charges.
According to analysts, it also poses a threat to the new heat of ties between Australia and China, which up until late last season had been hampered by tensions over trade, COVID-19, and local security posture.
Yang, a pro-democracy journalist who was born in China and is an American citizen, was employed in New York prior to his arrest in 2019 at the Guangzhou airports. He worked for China’s Ministry of State Security from 1989 to 1999 and was charged with spying for a nation that China has no publicly identified. The specifics of the case against him have not been made public.
According to Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for the Foreign government, Yang had been found guilty of spying and” sentenced to death with two years parole, and it was ordered that all his individual properties become confiscated.”
Wang continued by saying that all procedures were followed and that” the American side” was permitted to observe the punishment.
Feng Chongyi, a Sydney-based researcher who has closely followed the trial and is Wang’s lifelong friend, described it as” a severe case of injustice” and added that Yang had refuted the accusations.
According to Feng,” He is punished by the Chinese authorities for his condemnation of Taiwanese human rights abuses and his support for universal ideals like democracy, the rule of law, etc.”
Yang’s health had been severely harmed by his five years in custody, he urged the American government to seek Yang health parole.
According to Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong, Australia is “appalled” by the judge’s ruling and has requested the Chinese adviser.
According to Wong, the American government is aware that if a person does not commit any serious crimes during their two-year phrase, their phrase may be commuted to life in prison.
She said,” This is terrible news for Dr. Yang, his family, and everyone who has helped him.”
According to a home official in Sydney, Yang’s home was” shocked and devastated by this information, which comes at the very end of worst anticipation.”
On the day of his trip to Beijing in October, his two sons, who reside in Australia, wrote to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese pleading with him to secure Yang’s discharge for health reasons.
After learning last year that Yang had a 10 cm tumour on his liver that might need surgery, Yang’s supporters have argued that he should be released on health parole.
In Yang’s situation, Australia had expressed concern over ongoing delays and had called for Yang to be well-off, including having access to medical care, “at the highest levels.”
In May 2021, a Beijing judge secretly heard Yang’s event, and the charges against him have never been made public. In letters to relatives from prison, he has denied any wrongdoing and denied working as a detective for either Australia or the US.