April 22, 2024

Chinese court sentences Australian Yang Hengjun to death

Chinese court sentences Australian Yang Hengjun to death

Chinese court sentences Australian Yang Hengjun to death

By Tom Crowley and Stephen Dziedzic
05 February 2024

Australian Yang Hengjun has been sentenced to death by a Chinese court, Foreign Minister Penny Wong has confirmed.

It is a suspended sentence that can be converted to a life sentence after two years subject to good behaviour.

The Australian citizen, writer and democracy activist has been imprisoned in China since 2019 on charges of spying, which he has always denied.
Senator Wong has called the court’s decision “harrowing” and “appalling”.

The Australian government has petitioned for his release, but officials had not been able to attend Dr Yang’s closed trial, which began in 2021.

“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,” Senator Wong said.

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

Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the trial had been held “in strict accordance with the law” and claimed it had upheld Dr Yang’s “procedural rights” and Australia’s “consular rights”.

Dr Yang was detained for two years before he was charged, and Australian officials have reported difficulties with consular access, but Mr Wang said the court had allowed Australian diplomats to “sit in on the sentencing”.

Dr Yang’s lawyers have until February 15th to decide whether to appeal. Any appeal process would delay the onset of the two-year window for good behaviour.

China’s ambassador to Australia, Xiao Qian, was summoned to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) on Monday for an explanation.

The meeting with DFAT secretary Jan Adams lasted 20 minutes. The ambassador ignored questions from the media as he departed.

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