AsiaChina78-year-old American 'spy' sentenced to life in prison by a Chinese court

78-year-old American ‘spy’ sentenced to life in prison by a Chinese court

John Shing-Wan Leung, a 78-year-old man, who is also a Hong Kong permanent resident, was found guilty of espionage and sentenced to life imprisonment as an American spy by the Intermediate People’s Court in the eastern city of Suzhou.

Leung’s penalty entailed a lifelong deprivation of political rights and a confiscation of 500,000 yuan worth of personal property. Noticeably, there have been no prior indications or announcements about Leung’s detention or judicial proceedings.

American Spy

The Chinese government handles espionage cases with minimal openness, with trials frequently conducted in a clandestine manner and considerable gaps between verdicts and sentences.

Leung’s sentencing coincides with a period of heightened tension between Beijing and Washington, with trade, technology, geopolitics, and military superiority being major points of contention, marking the lowest point in their relationship in 50 years.

Furthermore, this development follows a recent resumption of high-level talks between officials from the US and China, after a disagreement regarding a supposed Chinese spy balloon had previously hindered efforts to repair the relationship.

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Leung’s case, an an American spy, is one among many in China’s expanding campaign against espionage under the leadership of Xi Jinping, with an increasing number of foreign nationals being caught up in the crackdown.

Who is Leung?

The charges against Leung remain ambiguous. The court revealed Leung’s Hong Kong and US identification numbers, and Hong Kong media reported that he was born in Hong Kong and served as the chair of the Texas division of the Association for the Promotion of the Peaceful Reunification of China (APPRC). However, The Guardian has not verified his identity.

According to Hong Kong media, the individual believed to be Leung was reported in 2015 to have financially supported eye surgeries for 60 underprivileged children in rural China, facilitated through the Guangming Hospital.

In recent years, state media and government statements have acknowledged his efforts in strengthening US-China relations and collaborating with various Chinese cultural organizations abroad, as well as the United Front Department.

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