Australian-Chinese writer Yang Hengjun has been given a suspended death sentence by a Chinese court, five years after he was arrested and accused of spying.
The sentence may be commuted to life imprisonment after two years, according to Australian officials.
Dr Yang – a scholar and novelist who blogged about Chinese affairs – denies the charges against him, which have not been made public.
The Australian government, which has petitioned for his release, is “appalled” by the decision and will convey its response to Beijing “in the strongest terms”, said Foreign Minister Penny Wong.
“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.”
“All Australians want to see Dr Yang reunited with his family. We will not relent in our advocacy.”
Dr Yang, who previously worked for China’s Ministry of State Security, was nicknamed the “democracy peddler”, but his writings often avoided direct criticisms of the government.
The 57-year-old was intercepted at Guangzhou airport in January 2019 and accused of spying. His case has mostly unfolded behind closed doors since then, including a secret trial in 2021.
Australian officials have previously raised concerns, but China’s foreign ministry has warned them not to interfere in the case, and to respect the nation’s “judicial sovereignty”.
Dr Yang has been subjected to “more than 300 interrogations” and “six months of intense torture” while in detention, his family says.
This is a breaking news story – more to follow.