Chinese Ambassador to Australia Suggests Australian Writer Yang Hengjun May Escape Execution

Last Updated on March 11, 2024 4:08 am

In a surprising turn of events, China’s Ambassador to Australia, Xiao Qian, revealed on Monday that the suspended death sentence handed down to Australian writer Yang Hengjun last month might not be executed if he refrains from committing further crimes. Speaking at the Australian Financial Review Business Summit, Ambassador Xiao stated that the suspended sentence on espionage charges, issued by a Beijing court, does not automatically entail immediate execution for Yang.

Highlighting the conditional nature of the sentence, Ambassador Xiao emphasized that if Yang abides by the terms of his imprisonment and avoids any additional criminal activities, “theoretically there is a chance he will not be executed.” This marks the first instance of a Chinese official acknowledging the possibility of Yang escaping the death penalty.

Addressing concerns about Yang’s health, Xiao downplayed the severity, stating that while it is “not perfect,” it does not align with the depiction provided by Yang’s family.

Yang Hengjun, a pro-democracy blogger and spy novelist, is an Australian citizen born in China. Before his arrest at Guangzhou airport in 2019, he was working in New York. Last month, a Beijing court handed him a suspended death sentence on espionage charges after five years in detention and three years following his closed-door trial, shocking his family and supporters.

Yang chose not to appeal the decision, according to his family, in order to expedite urgently needed medical care for a serious kidney condition. Despite the suspended death sentence, Yang remains in prison, and details of the case have not been officially disclosed.

Yang has consistently denied any wrongdoing, asserting that he never worked as a spy for a foreign country. He previously worked for China’s Ministry of State Security for a decade, including assignments in Hong Kong and Washington, before resigning and moving to Australia.

In China, a suspended death sentence grants the accused a two-year reprieve from execution, after which the sentence is automatically converted to life imprisonment. Yang’s family has declared him a political prisoner, challenging the validity of espionage accusations and criticizing the failure to extract any confession related to alleged activities dating back 30 years.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *