China sentences US citizen to life for espionage following closed-door trial

Hong KongA CHINESE COURT HAS sentenced a United States passport holder to life in prison on espionage charges, following a brief closed-door trial. However, no information has been made available about the precise charges against him. Closed-door trials are frequent occurrences in Chinese courts, especially in cases relating to national security, which include charges of espionage against the state. However, life sentences are exceedingly rare for espionage cases.

The individual convicted in this case has been named in media reports as John Shing-Wan Leung, 78. He is reportedly a permanent resident of Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, over which Beijing has near-absolute control. It is not known if Leung was a Chinese citizen at any time in his life. China does not recognize joint citizenship and requires its citizens to drop their Chinese citizenship when swearing allegiance to another country. The Reuters news agency reported on Monday that Leung was at some point a member of two American-based Chinese expatriate groups, which it described as “pro-China”. These are the United States-China Friendship Promotion Association and the United States-China Friendship Association.

Leung is believed to have been arrested in Hong Kong in 2021 by local Chinese counterintelligence officers. He has been held in prison ever since his arrest. A press release issued on Monday by the Intermediate People’s Court in Suzhou, a city located in southern Jiangsu province, 700 north of Hong Kong, said Leung had been found “guilty of espionage”. The press release added that Leung had been “sentenced to life imprisonment and deprived of [his] political rights for life”. However, the statement provided no information about Leung’s alleged crimes, or the country he was found to have spied for.

According to the BBC, the United States embassy in Beijing refused to discuss the details of this case, stating only that the United States government was aware of Leung’s conviction. An embassy spokesperson told the BBC that “the Department of State has no greater priority than the safety and security of US citizens overseas”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 15 May 2023 | Permalink

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