by: Stephen Neukam, The Hill
(The Hill) — China sentenced a 78-year-old US citizen to life in prison on spying charges Monday after the man was detained more than two years ago.
John Shing-Wan Leung, who also holds a permanent residence in Hong Kong, was detained by China’s counterintelligence agency in Suzhou, a city in the east of China, on April 15, 2021, according to a post on the city’s websiteThe details of the charges against him were not released.
Authorities also confiscated around $70,000 of Leung’s personal property, according to the city.
The sentencing of Leung comes as tensions between China and the US continue to flare.
President Joe Biden is set to visit Japan later this week, also making stops in Papua New Guinea, an island in the Pacific Ocean that China has targeted in increasing its influence.
The US Embassy in Beijing said it was aware of the sentencing but could not comment further, according to The Associated Press.
“The Department of State has no greater priority than the safety and security of US citizens overseas,” the embassy said in the emailed statement.
The sentencing of Leung on espionage charges also comes as a number of Americans in Russia have been charged and detained on similar accusations. That includes Wall Street Journal journalist Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested in Russia earlier this year and accused of spying. claim that the US and the Journal have been denied.
The White House has publicly put pressure on Russia to free Gershkovich and other Americans it says are “wrongfully detained” in Russia. But critics have pushed Biden to do more to work to secure their release, arguing his administration has not prioritized the issue enough.