China has sentenced a 78-year-old American passport holder to life in prison on spying charges, as the world’s No. 2 economy prioritizes eliminating national security risks.
John Leung, who is also a Hong Kong permanent resident, was sentenced in the eastern Chinese city of Suzhou on Monday, according to the court’s official WeChat page. In addition, some 500,000 yuan ($71,808) of Leung’s property was confiscated, the report added.
Leung was arrested on suspicion of espionage in April 2021, according to the statement. No details of his crime were provided. The US Embassy in Beijing didn’t respond immediately to a request for comment.
“Given the opacity of the charges, and evidence against the defendant, the verdict further erodes the foreign business community’s confidence in the environment,” said James Zimmerman, a Beijing-based lawyer with law firm Perkins Coie. “This is not a welcomed development.”
Perkins Coie, which has its headquarters in Seattle, also provides legal services to Bloomberg LP.
Last month, China passed new counter-espionage legislation expanding the list of activities that can be considered spying, as President Xi Jinping increasingly puts security concerns over development. The expanded law bans the possession of state secrets including all documents, data, materials and articles concerning national security.
Beijing has also launched a nationwide anti-espionage crackdown targeting consulting firms. One global expert network, Capvision, has been accused of leaking state secrets and having ties with foreign intelligence agencies. The company has since vowed to follow China’s national security laws and set up a committee to manage compliance issues.
The US has similarly announced efforts to crack down on Chinese spying and harassment of dissidents in the US. With assistance from Phila Siu / Bloomberg News