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John Shing-Wan Leung, a U.S. citizen and Hong Kong resident, was sentenced to life in prison on espionage charges on May 15 by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province. According to public information, the 78-year-old Leung, a pro-CCP overseas Chinese leader in Texas, served as president of the China Council for the Promotion of Peaceful National Reunification, among other positions.
The Suzhou Intermediate People’s Court found Leung guilty of espionage and sentenced him to life imprisonment, deprivation of political rights for life, and confiscation of personal property of 500,000 yuan (about $71,916), according to Chinese state media.
Chinese authorities publicized great details of Leung’s personal information, such as his date of birth, May 1, 1945, his Hong Kong permanent resident identity card number, two-way permit number for traveling to Macau, and his U.S. passport number.
However, no details have been disclosed as to what “espionage” he had done.
Leung Actively Helped With the CCP’s United Front Effort
According to various media reports in the past, Leung had served as pro-CCP association leaders such as the Texas branch president of China Council for the Promotion of Peaceful National Reunification and president of the U.S.-China Friendship Promotion Association.
When the CCP introduced the Hong Kong National Security Law in Hong Kong in 2020, both organizations issued statements in support of it.
There were also online pictures of Leung with a number of senior CCP officials, including former Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.
According to China’s state-run Xinhua News, in May 2015, a symposium was held in Houston for local overseas Chinese. During the event, Leung claimed that the “one country, two systems” policy has not only maintained the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong, but can also be applied to Taiwan to promote and maintain the prosperity and stability of the “Taiwan region.”
In 2004, the overseas edition of the state-run People’s Daily praised some of Leung’s “patriotic deeds.” According to the article, Leung was born in Hong Kong, went to study in the United Kingdom at the age of 16, and later worked as a civil servant at the United Nations headquarters in the United States, where he has lived ever since but traveled to China frequently. Leung was arrested in China on April 15, 2021.
He founded the Oklahoma City-Guangzhou Friendship Association in 1985, and established and chaired the Leung Cultural Exchange Foundation in 1997.
People’s Daily described him as “deeply loving China and supporting China’s reunification.” Since 1999, he has been actively promoting the U.S.-China cultural exchange activities, arranging visits and exchanges between Chinese and American artists and teachers, and “providing financial support” for these activities. His deeds had been “fully affirmed by relevant Chinese departments and leaders … As an outstanding Chinese American, he has been received by Chinese leaders many times when they visit the United States,” People’s Daily said.
Vague and Broad Definition of the Updated Anti-Spying Law
The CCP’s Standing Committee recently approved the amendments to the Anti-Espionage Law, which will go into effect on July 1. The new law expands the definition of espionage from 40 to 71 articles, broadens the target of espionage to include “other documents, data, information, and objects related to national security and interests,” and gives the Chinese national security agencies the authority to inspect the belongings of suspected individuals.
Former Beijing lawyer and current affairs commentator Lai Jianping told The Epoch Times that under the amended Anti-Espionage Law, the definition of the crime has been expanded and become increasingly vague, subject to the authorities’ arbitrary interpretation. He expressed worries that even when foreigners are doing normal business, it can be categorized as “collecting intelligence.”
Miserable Outcome for CCP Cronies
Wong Wai-kwok, a UK-based political scholar, points out three unusual aspects of Leung’s case.
One is that Leung is not a Hong Kong citizen but a U.S. citizen, “and he was arrested in China and sentenced to life imprisonment for so-called espionage by the Chinese judiciary.” Second, in the CCP’s eyes, Leung himself is a Hong Kong “patriot.” When even a person like him is accused of espionage, it has a cautionary effect on other so-called “patriots” in Hong Kong. Third, there are also those who are CCP spies, who are involved in anti-Taiwan independence and support the CCP’s unification of Taiwan. These people would also feel scared upon seeing the sudden arrest of Leung.
“These are the Chinese who have foreign passports and work for the CCP. In the past, they believed they still have value for the CCP, and that the CCP would not do anything against them. I think now they are getting scared, because they don’t know why they are suddenly arrested and then secretly tried without a word, and then sentenced to life imprisonment or even prevented from leaving the prison for life. That is to say, if you work for the CCP, you may not end up well,” Wong said.
Last year, the editor-in-chief of a CCP’s mouthpiece newspaper was also charged with espionage.
Dong Yuyu, a former senior editor of Guangming Daily, was arrested by Beijing authorities in 2022 while having lunch with a Japanese diplomat and charged with espionage. The Japanese diplomat was later released after several hours of questioning. Dong, however, has remained in custody.
In March 2023, Dong’s family was informed that the case had been sent to a court in Beijing for trial. On April 24, 2023, Dong’s family made its first public remark on the case, saying that the charges were fabricated and may have been intended to suppress dissent.