Australian Writer's Death Sentence in China May Not Be Executed

Written by Camilla Jessen

Mar.11 - 2024 2:14 PM CET

China's ambassador to Australia suggests that imprisoned Australian writer Yang Hengjun may avoid execution if he commits no further crimes.

Trending Now

China's ambassador to Australia, Xiao Qian, provided new insights on Monday regarding the fate of Yang Hengjun, an Australian writer facing a death sentence in China for espionage charges. This was reported by the Reuters agency.

Speaking at the Australian Financial Review Business Summit, Xiao revealed that Yang's suspended death sentence might not lead to execution, provided he adheres to the terms of his imprisonment without committing additional offenses.

"Theoretically there is a chance he will not be executed," Xiao said.

This marks the first time a Chinese official has hinted at the possibility of Yang not facing execution.

Ambassador Xiao also downplayed the concerns over Yang's health, describing it as "not perfect" but less critical than depicted by Yang's family.

Yang, a pro-democracy blogger and spy novelist is an Australian citizen born in China. He was working in New York before he was arrest at the Guangzhou airport in 2019.

Last month, a Beijing court issued a suspended death sentence for espionage charges to him, a verdict that stunned his family and backers. This came after spending five years in detention in Beijing and three years following his trial, which was conducted behind closed doors.

The details surrounding his espionage charges have not been made public.

Yang, who has denied any wrongdoing and spying allegations, remains in prison, choosing not to appeal the sentence to expedite medical treatment for a serious kidney condition.

Having worked for China's Ministry of State Security in the past, Yang's transition to Australia and subsequent political activism have been met with severe consequences.

A suspended death sentence in China typically offers a two-year reprieve, after which it can be commuted to life imprisonment. Yang's family and supporters continue to advocate for his release, denouncing the espionage accusations as baseless and politically motivated.