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78-year-old US citizen sentenced to life imprisonment in China for spying

78-year-old US citizen sentenced to life imprisonment in China for spying
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John Shing-Wan Leung was convicted via a closed-door trial, which is common for sensitive cases involving espionage charges

May 16, 2023
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A 78-year-old U.S. citizen has been found guilty of espionage and sentenced to life in prison in China. 
On Monday, the Intermediate People’s Court in Suzhou City announced that it convicted permanent Hong Kong resident John Shing-wan Leung on spy charges without providing specific details regarding the allegations.
Leung, who was arrested by a local counterintelligence unit in Suzhou in 2021, “was found guilty of espionage, sentenced to life imprisonment, deprived of political rights for life, and confiscated personal property of RMB 500,000 (approximately $71,670),” according to an official statement translated by ABC News.
Leung had reportedly been involved in different organizations that allowed him to frequently travel to China to meet with local officials.
He served as the Texas branch head of the Association for the Promotion of the Peaceful Reunification of China, a group that advocates Beijing’s claims over Taiwan. He also chaired his own foundation, the Leung Cultural Exchange Foundation, which facilitated exchanges between musicians from China and the U.S.
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Leung was convicted via a closed-door trial, which is commonly utilized for sensitive cases involving espionage charges.
Although heavy sentences are rare for foreign citizens, the upcoming implementation of a new law in July is expected to broaden the scope of China’s law against espionage. Once enacted, this law will prohibit the transfer of any data determined to be associated with national security.
Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee said in a statement that Leung’s sentencing has revealed threats to national security.
“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.
While it was not made clear where Leung was residing at the time of his arrest, U.S. officials have confirmed that they are aware of the reports. 
“The Department of State has no greater priority than the safety and security of US citizens overseas,” the spokesperson for the U.S. embassy in Beijing said in a statement to Reuters.
Last week, Litang Liang, a 63-year-old man from Boston, pleaded not guilty to accusations of spying on dissidents for the Chinese government. If convicted, Liang could face up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a maximum of $250,000 in fines.
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      Ryan General

      Ryan General is a Senior Reporter for NextShark

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