Sydney, Australia, Feb 5 (EFE).- Australian pro-democracy blogger Yang Hengjun has been given a suspended death sentence by a Chinese court after being accused of espionage, the Australian government reported Monday.
The 58-year-old academic was born in China but has Australian citizenship.
“The Australian Government is appalled that Australian citizen, Dr Yang Jun, has today received a suspended death sentence in Beijing,” Foreign Minister Penny Wong said in a statement, adding that it is “harrowing news for Dr Yang and his family and all who have supported him.”
Wong said the government was “appalled” at the ruling and would be “communicating our response in the strongest terms.”
Yang was arrested in 2019 on national security charges, accused of spying, which he has denied, and then convicted in May 2021 in a one-day closed-door trial for which the verdict or sentence was not publicly disclosed.
Wong said his sentence could be commuted to life imprisonment if he does not commit any serious crimes within a period of two years.
Australia has asked Beijing for his release “at every opportunity, and at the highest levels” and has consistently called for “basic standards of justice, procedural fairness and humane treatment for Dr. Yang” in line with “international norms and China’s legal obligations,” Wong said.
“We will continue to press for Dr Yang’s interests and wellbeing, including appropriate medical treatment, and provide consular assistance to him and his family. All Australians want to see Dr Yang reunited with his family. We will not relent in our advocacy,” she added.
In recent years, concern has increased over the health of Yang, who had a large cyst detected in one of his kidneys.
In October, his relatives sent a letter to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese expressing concern over his “rapid” decline in health and pleading with the leader to do “all in your power” to secure his release during his official visit to China in November.
“We request that you do all in your power to save our father’s life and return him immediately to family and freedom in Australia,” they wrote.
The arrest of Yang and other Australian citizens has been a source of tension between Canberra and Beijing, which reinforced a diplomatic and commercial thaw with Albanese’s visit, the first by an Australian leader to the Asian giant since 2016.
The writer’s sentence is a setback after months of improvement in bilateral relations under the Australian government, with the withdrawal of some tariffs by Beijing and the release in October of the Chinese-Australian journalist Cheng Lei, who was detained in 2020. EFE