A court in China announced on Monday that it had found a 78-year-old American citizen guilty of espionage and sentenced him to life in jail for his crime. The court, however, disclosed very few details about the case that had previously been unreported.
The imposition of sentences of this severity on foreign nationals in China is relatively uncommon, and the imprisonment of John Shing-wan Leung, who holds an American passport, is expected to further strain relations that were already strained between Beijing and Washington.
According to a statement released by the Intermediate People’s Court in the city of Suzhou in eastern China, Leung, who is a permanent resident of Hong Kong, “was found guilty of espionage, sentenced to life imprisonment, and deprived of political rights for life.” This information was included in the announcement.
It was stated that in April of 2021, the authorities in Suzhou “took compulsory measures according to the law” against Leung, who was 78 years old. However, it was not specified when he had been brought into custody. At the time of his detention, Leung’s residence details were not readily available to the public.
A representative of the United States Embassy in Beijing stated that they were aware of reports that a citizen of the United States had just been found guilty and sentenced in the city of Suzhou.
According to the spokeswoman for the Department of State, “The Department of State has no greater priority than the safety and security of US citizens overseas.”
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The court announcement did not disclose any additional specifics on the allegations, and it is common practice in China for important cases to be tried behind closed doors.
During a routine news briefing on Monday, the spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Wang Wenbin, declined to speak any further on the subject.
It is very possible that the imprisonment will hurt relations with Washington even further. Relations between the two countries are already badly strained due to problems like as trade, human rights, and Taiwan.
Following the United States’ shooting down in February of what was believed to be a Chinese surveillance balloon, high-level discussions between Washington and Beijing have recently resumed after an unofficial hiatus due to the incident.
Jake Sullivan, the National Security Advisor for the United States of America, and Wang Yi, the top diplomat for China, met in Vienna for eight hours of talks last week, and both sides have described the encounter as “candid, substantive, and constructive.” An apparent breakthrough occurred last week.
A statement denouncing the reported sentencing of a human rights activist for “inciting subversion of state power” was released by the United States government on Friday.
According to reports from rights organizations, Guo Feixiong, also known as Yang Maodong, was sentenced to eight years in prison. There is no formal confirmation of the sentencing from China that has been made public.
The United States Department of State issued a statement in which it claimed that its diplomats had been prevented from attending the trial that was held in southern China.