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Human rights: Death penalty for China critics: Australia “horrified”

Human rights: Death penalty for China critics: Australia “horrified”

The trial of writer Yang Hengjun took place behind closed doors. It is not the first case to strain relations between Beijing and Canberra.

Australia’s government has reacted with dismay to a Chinese court’s death sentence against writer Yang Hengjun.

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said in Canberra that the government was “appalled” that the Australian citizen was given a suspended death sentence in Beijing. According to the statement, the Australian government expects the sentence to be commuted to life imprisonment after a two-year probation period.

The Foreign Ministry in Beijing confirmed the verdict. The court found Yang guilty of espionage, spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Monday. The native Chinese had always rejected the allegations. In January 2019, he traveled with his wife and child from New York to Guangzhou in southern China. After his arrival he disappeared. It was only later that his arrest became known.

“This is shocking news”

Yang is known in China as a novelist and blogger. He regularly commented on Chinese politics and was sometimes critical of the Communist Party. He reportedly previously worked in the Chinese Foreign Ministry. He has had Australian citizenship since 2002.

“This is devastating news for Dr. Yang, his family and everyone who supported him,” Wong said. The Australian government has repeatedly advocated for Yang’s interests and health at the highest levels and wants to continue to do so. According to reports, doctors discovered a cyst in the now 58-year-old’s kidney in August last year.

Australia has repeatedly argued with China over detained citizens in recent years. The relationship between Beijing and Canberra was therefore tense. In October 2023, Chinese-Australian journalist Cheng Lei was released in China, more than three years after her arrest. The 49-year-old, who worked for China’s state television, was arrested in August 2020. The prosecution accused her of passing on state secrets abroad.

Source: Stern

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