Mon. May 29th, 2023

A 78-year-old US citizen was found guilty of espionage and given a life sentence by a Chinese court.

Chinese courtroom

A permanent resident of Hong Kong named John Shing-Wan Leung was imprisoned on Monday.

No other information about the accusations against him was provided by the court in the southeast Chinese city of Suzhou.

According to a news release from the court, Leung was detained in the city two years ago by a regional office of China's counterintelligence agency.

According to a statement from the Intermediate People's Court that was published on the social media site WeChat, he "was found guilty of espionage, sentenced to life imprisonment [and] deprived of political rights for life."

Leung's residence at the time of his arrest is unknown.

The US embassy in Beijing confirmed knowledge of the claims through a spokeswoman. The Department of State said that the security and safety of American people abroad was its top concern.

In China, closed-door trials are typical, and for delicate cases like those involving espionage allegations, not much information is often made available to the public.

A new rule that broadens the application of China's anti-espionage regulations will go into force in July. Any information that the authorities believe to be relevant to national security will be prohibited from being disclosed.

The imprisonment is likely to worsen already strained ties between China and the US, which sank under the administration of former US President Donald Trump after he started a trade war with China in 2018.

On a number of topics, including Taiwan, China's militarization of the South China Sea, and the origins of Covid, the two countries continue to engage in conflict.

The US shooting down an alleged Chinese surveillance balloon in February, which Beijing said was a weather monitoring device, further aggravated tensions.

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