China Sentences Elderly U.S. Citizen to Life

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A 78-year-old U.S. citizen was sentenced to life in prison by a Chinese court on Monday after being found guilty of espionage.

The details of the spying charges faced by John Shing-Wan Leung, a U.S. citizen living in Hong Kong, have not been disclosed.

While it is common for nations to keep such trials under wraps due to their sensitive nature, in China, where the Communist Party holds tight control over the judicial system, the release of further information is especially unlikely, according to AP News.

A statement from the Intermediate People’s Court in the eastern Chinese city of Suzhou explained matter of factly that Leung was arrested “according to the law” on April 15, 2021, found guilty, sentenced to life imprisonment on May 15, and is now “deprived of political rights for life,” according to CBS News.

The U.S. embassy in Beijing acknowledged Leung’s conviction but refused to say more, citing privacy concerns, according to CBS News.

“The Department of State has no greater priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas,” the spokesperson added, according to CBS News.

When it comes to arrests made in matters of national security, the Chinese legal system awards extensive powers to prosecutors.

As previously covered by The Dallas Express, a recent report published by the human rights organization Safeguard Defenders also noted a broadening of the legal framework to impose exit bans against supposed dissenters, both Chinese and foreign.

Yet Leung’s harsh sentence is rare for foreigners and has raised concerns over the deteriorating relationship between Beijing and Washington.

Various disputes have arisen between the U.S. and China lately over trade, technology, spy balloons, human rights, and territorial claims in the South China Sea.

As The Dallas Express has reported, China has been taking a much more aggressive stance to safeguard its claims over Taiwan and the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

Similarly, the U.S. has strengthened its military connections with both Taiwan and the Philippines, with a recent announcement that American forces will join those of the latter to patrol the South China Sea later this year.

From the perspective of China, these actions from the U.S. are seriously “undermining China’s sovereignty, security, and development interests,” said Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang, according to AP News.

As the world’s second-largest economy, China has been trying to bounce back from the highly restrictive COVID-19 measures domestically while expanding its infrastructure investments and economic reach globally. Yet incidents like the arrest of Leung sound alarms among foreign businesses and investors.

Moreover, the crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong in 2019 and 2020, as well as those against COVID-19 lockdowns in 2022, points to broken promises by Beijing to allow Hong Kong’s government to maintain its autonomy when the city was returned to Chinese control by the British in 1997.

The election of Hong Kong’s current leader John Lee was allegedly orchestrated by Beijing last year, according to Military.com. The former police officer led the crackdown against the pro-democracy protests and ran unopposed.

Speaking about Leung’s arrest on May 16, Lee issued a warning to the city’s residents.

“This incident showed us that national security risks could be hidden in society. That’s why we repeatedly stressed that, although Hong Kong’s situation appears to be largely stabilized, we can’t let down our guard over national security risks and have to stay vigilant,” Lee said, according to Military.com.

Under President Xi Jinping’s leadership, the Chinese Communist Party has intensified its focus on Chinese-born foreign citizens, individuals from Taiwan and Hong Kong, and those with political or academic affiliations, according to AP News.

Leung actually had connections with several pro-Communist Party organizations, according to Military.com.

Nonetheless, government suspicion, often without concrete evidence, has led to increased scrutiny, censorship, and limitations on discussions of human rights and other topics in China.

For instance, as The Dallas Express reported earlier this year, four Chinese women were arrested for their participation in the anti-lockdown protests. The women were reportedly questioned about the types of literature they read and their feminist views by the authorities.

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  1. China Sentences Elderly U.S. Citizen to Life – Round Up DFW - […] Dallas ExpressMay 17, 2023Uncategorized […]

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