China hands Australian writer suspended death sentence

China's foreign ministry says a court in Beijing has handed down a suspended death sentence to an Australian writer charged with spying.

Yang Hengjun is a former Chinese diplomat who obtained Australian citizenship after retiring. He was detained by Chinese intelligence authorities in January 2019 and indicted on espionage charges the following year.

The 58-year-old was diagnosed with a kidney problem last year, raising concerns about his health.

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said on Monday Yang's suspended death sentence can be commuted to life imprisonment after two years of good behavior.

She said: "The Australian government is appalled at this outcome. We will be communicating our response in the strongest terms."

Wong added all Australians hope to see Yang reunited with his family. She said her government will continue to put its views to China.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the court strictly examined the case based on the law, fully guaranteed the defendant's rights in court and arranged for the Australian side to observe the ruling.