Australia questions China’s sentence of Yang Hengjun to life imprisonment, expressing dissatisfaction with trade barriers.

Australia’s Minister for Trade announced today that he will meet with China’s Minister of Commerce at the World Trade Organization meeting in Abu Dhabi later this month to push for China to lift import restrictions on Australian wine, lobster, and meat. At the same time, he will discuss China’s recent decision to sentence Australian writer Yang Hengjun to life imprisonment.

Reuters reported today that Australia’s Minister for Trade is urging China to lift barriers and questioning the sentencing of Yang Hengjun. Farrell, speaking on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) today, said the Australian government was “shocked” by the conviction and sentencing of Yang Hengjun on espionage charges and said that trade barriers should not disrupt the relationship between the two countries.

Following Canberra’s call for an investigation into the origins of COVID-19, China imposed trade barriers on Australia. Currently, Beijing has lifted most of the trade barriers imposed on Australian goods, maintaining restrictions only on a small portion of wine, lobster, and meat.

In a statement, Farrell said, “The Australian government continues to press for China to eliminate all remaining trade barriers affecting Australian exports to China.”

Farrell said, “I look forward to continuing constructive dialogue with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at this month’s World Trade Organization meeting.”

The WTO meeting will take place from February 26 to 29 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Farrell also told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation today that if China does not remove tariffs on Australian wine by March 31 (when Beijing’s review of Australian wine is due to end), Canberra will challenge China’s actions again at the WTO. He noted, “We will immediately initiate litigation proceedings at the World Trade Organization, and we have made this clear to the Chinese authorities.”

Regarding the Yang Hengjun case, Farrell told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, “The Australian government is shocked by the conviction and sentencing of Yang Hengjun, but we have initiated a process to maintain a stable relationship with the Chinese government. We will continue this process.”