Australian writer Yang Hengjun handed suspended death sentence by Beijing court

Australian-Chinese writer Yang Hengjun has been sentenced to death in China five years after he was accused of spying, foreign minister Penny Wong confirmed.

It is a suspended sentence that can be commuted to life imprisonment after two years.

Yang, a pro-democracy blogger, was arrested at the Guangzhou airport in 2019 and booked for spying on an undisclosed foreign country. He received a closed-door trial in Beijing in May 2021.

Calling his sentencing “harrowing” and “appalling”, senator Wong summoned China’s ambassador for an explanation. The government has also petitioned for his release.

“We have consistently called for basic standards of justice, procedural fairness and humane treatment for Dr Yang, in accordance with international norms and China’s legal obligations,” Ms Wong said.

“All Australians want to see Dr Yang reunited with his family. We will not relent in our advocacy.”

His family said they were “shocked and devastated” by the court order, calling it “at extreme end of worst expectations”.

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