Yang Hengjun’s severe sentencing to life imprisonment has been reported to involve Taiwan.

A Beijing court recently sentenced Australian-Chinese writer Yang Hengjun to life imprisonment for espionage. According to a circulated indictment, the prosecution accused Yang Hengjun of disclosing 40 confidential documents to Taiwan and receiving spy funds totaling around HK$4.4 million (approximately NT$17.7 million). Following assessment by China’s National Security Bureau, it was determined that of the 40 documents Yang handed over to Taiwan, 31 were top secret and 9 were classified as confidential. However, there are also claims that Yang Hengjun allegedly sold a Chinese top-secret document to Taiwan for less than $5,000 on average, raising doubts about the credibility of the price.

According to Central News Agency’s report today, Yang Hengjun is an Australian citizen born in China and a well-known pro-democracy blogger. He previously resided in New York as a visiting scholar at Columbia University and engaged in “daigou” or online shopping to supplement his income. In January 2019, accompanied by his wife, he traveled to China, where he was arrested on charges of espionage. On the eve of the Lunar New Year this year, he was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve, but the authorities did not disclose details of the case.

According to a document uploaded by democracy activist and lawyer Chen Chuangchuang on X platform (the predecessor of Twitter) on the 9th, a lawsuit from the Beijing Second Intermediate People’s Court in 2020 confirmed rumors that Yang Hengjun claimed to have worked in the national security department. According to the circulated indictment, between 1994 and 2002, he allegedly instructed his girlfriend Wu Yanyan to mail “defection letters” to Taiwan’s Military Intelligence Bureau through the Hong Kong post, and accepted intelligence tasks provided by Taiwan’s Military Intelligence Bureau operatives, using the alias “Jiang Ping” and a dedicated contact address.

The indictment also alleges that Yang Hengjun, taking advantage of his position in the Hainan Provincial State Security Department, accessed and photographed, copied, or recorded confidential documents, which he then transferred to video tapes or stored on computer disks. He allegedly met with Taiwan’s Military Intelligence Bureau operatives several times in Hong Kong and other places.

Altogether, he reportedly handed over 40 sets of document materials on video tapes and disks and received over $220,000 in spy funds (approximately HK$1.72 million, NT$6.89 million) and over HK$2.7 million (approximately NT$10.82 million). According to the report, after assessment by China’s National Security Bureau, of the 40 documents Yang provided to Taiwan, 31 were classified as top secret and 9 were classified as confidential.

The indictment also states that the defendant, Yang Jun (English name: JUNYANG, formerly known as Yang Hongjun, alias Yang Hengjun, using the alias “Jiang Ping”), was born on October 10, 1965, holds Australian citizenship, and is a doctoral graduate from Hubei Province, China.

The defendant was placed under residential surveillance by the Beijing Municipal State Security Bureau on suspicion of espionage on January 19, 2019, criminally detained on July 17, arrested on August 23, and the investigation into his alleged espionage ended on March 23, 2020, when the case was transferred to the procuratorate for review and prosecution.

Central News Agency stated that Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese expressed outrage upon learning of Yang Hengjun’s life imprisonment and vowed to continue efforts to secure his release from China.

So far, there has been no response from Chinese officials or other parties regarding this news.