Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong expressed deep concern over the latest development in the case of Dr. Yang, stating that it is “harrowing news for Dr Yang, his family and all who have supported him.”
Dr. Yang has been in Chinese detention since January 19, 2019, when he arrived in Guangzhou from New York with his wife and teenage stepdaughter. He faced a closed-door trial on espionage charges in Beijing in May 2021 and has been awaiting a verdict. The Chinese court has not immediately announced the sentence, and in China, suspended sentences are typically commuted to life sentences after a certain period.
Born in China, Yang had a background as a diplomat and state security agent before moving to the private sector in Hong Kong and later Australia. He became an Australian citizen in 2002. Last August, Yang informed his family that he feared he might die in detention due to a diagnosed kidney cyst, leading supporters to call for his release for medical treatment.
Foreign Minister Wong asserted that Australia would communicate its response in the strongest terms, emphasising the continued pressing of Dr. Yang’s interests and well-being, including the need for appropriate medical care.
In October of the previous year, Australian journalist Cheng Lei was released after more than three years in Chinese detention for breaking an embargo with a television broadcast on a state-run TV network. The situations of Yang and Cheng have been frequent topics in high-level meetings between the two countries in recent years.