In a shocking report today, Chinese authorities have confirmed that Chinese-Australian author Yang Yun has been given a "suspended death sentence" on espionage charges. Australia immediately expressed its displeasure with the decision, and official dispatches were sent to China.
A Beijing court found Yang Yun guilty of espionage and sentenced him to death with a two-year suspension, a spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry said. In China, a suspended death sentence is usually commuted to life imprisonment after a two-year probationary period.
Most suspended sentences end that way, and none of them turn into a regular death sentence. Yang Jun, born in China in 1965, was arrested in 2019 on charges of espionage, which the defendant vehemently denied. The trial was held behind closed doors in 2021, which drew sharp criticism from human rights advocates.
However, the Chinese authorities did not pay attention to the criticism at all, nor did they issue official announcements. The writer, also known as Yang Hengjun, revealed in May 2021 that he had been tortured during his detention at an undisclosed location, expressing fears that a coerced confession could be used against him.
Beijing resolutely rejected these accusations and said that the writer will receive a fair and correct trial, but only according to Chinese laws. In a poignant update in August 2023, Jang Jun expressed concern about his life in detention due to his deteriorating health.
The unfolding events have once again put China's legal system in the spotlight, raising questions about the transparency and fairness of the trial process. The international community, including Australia, has been following the case closely, expressing concerns about possible human rights violations.
Australia's quick response in expressing its displeasure underscores the diplomatic tension between the two nations that was primarily caused by the case. The use of "suspended death sentences" in China has drawn criticism from global human rights organizations, which claim that such sentences violate basic principles of justice.