Feb 5, 2024 - World

Australian writer given suspended death sentence in China

Detained Chinese-Australian novelist and former diplomat Yang Hengjun posing for a photo at an undisclosed location with a mountainous backdrop.

Chinese-Australian novelist and former diplomat Yang Hengjun. Photo: Yang Hengjun/Twitter

Yang Hengjun, an Australian writer who was based in New York before his arrest in China on espionage charges in 2019, was given a suspended death sentence by a Chinese court on Monday.

The big picture: Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister, Penny Wong, said in a statement she's "appalled" at the sentence of Yang, which is expected to be commuted to life in prison after two years, and vowed the Australian government would communicate its response "in the strongest terms."

  • The 58-year-old novelist and former Chinese diplomat spent two years with his family in New York, where he was a visiting scholar at Columbia University, before he was detained.
  • Australian officials criticized the closed-door trial of pro-democracy blogger Yang, who has always denied any wrongdoing.

What they're saying: Sydney academic Feng Chongyi told the BBC in a statement that his friend was being "punished by the Chinese government for his criticism of human rights abuses in China and his advocacy for ... democracy and the rule of law."

Go deeper: Foreign journalists in China face increasing intimidation

Editor's note: This article has been updated with more details from Yang's sentence.

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