China-US relations worsen as Beijing sentences old US citizen to life in prison

Key Takeaways:

  • China has sentenced a 78-year-old US Citizen to life in prison
  • John Shing-Wan Leung, the American, also held a residency in Hong Kong
  • Tensions between China and the United States have escalated over the past months
China-US Relations worsen as Beijing sentences 78-year-old United States citizen, John Shing-Wan Leung to life in prison.
China has sentenced a 78-year-old US Citizen to life in prison. Pic Credit: Javier Gallego

YEREVAN ( — In what will come as a fresh escalation of tensions between Beijing and Washington, China has sentenced a 78-year-old United States citizen to life in prison.

According to reports, John Shing-Wan Leung, who also holds permanent residency in Hong Kong, was found guilty of spying charges. 

Officials from the Suzhou Department of the Chinse counterintelligence agency detained the American national on April 15, 2021. Meanwhile, details of the case against him are unknown. It is common for Beijing to refrain from publishing details of arrests, especially of foreign nationals. 

Typically, Chinese authorities share accusations that include espionage, illegal activities, and giving out sensitive information to hostile countries.

With the Communist Party of China and authoritarian President Xi Jinping exercising total control over all aspects of the country, it will be difficult to get any details out. Therefore, it is typical for state Governments to withhold information, claiming national security concerns. 

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According to local media reports, the timing of his detention was also suspicious. It came right after China closed its borders and implemented strict travel restrictions to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a similar case, Russia had also arrested an American journalist on spying charges.

In March 2023, the Federal Security Service (FSB) of Russia accused Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal correspondent, of espionage against the state. Despite Washington’s efforts, Moscow has refused to release him to date. 

China-US Relations at historic law

The arrest of the American national comes at a time when relations between China and the United States are at a historic low. Over the past months, both countries have leveled several accusations against each other. 

Earlier this year, tensions between Beijing and Washington escalated when the US shot an alleged Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina in retaliation. China accused the Biden Administration of flying ten spy balloons over its airspace in 2022. 

To make matters worse, the United States welcomed Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen when she made a stopover on her way to and back from Latin America. Ignoring stern warnings from China, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy met with the Taiwanese President in California and other US lawmakers from both parties. 

Unimpressed, Bijing accused Washington of violating its territorial integrity by entertaining the leadership of the breakaway island nation, which China claims as its integral part.

Several US officials have come out in public to accuse Beijing of trying to weaken the US dollar. Meanwhile, China has aggressively promoted its currency, the yuan, as an alternative to the dollar for international trade

Several countries have also expressed their willingness to ditch the USD in favor of the yuan. Last month, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva urged developing nations to replace the American currency with their own. Weeks later, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, called on BRICS to lead the efforts to avoid using greenback in international settlements. 

The life sentence against the 78-year-old United States citizen comes against such hostile relations. 

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US Embassy is aware of the arrest

Meanwhile, The US Embassy in Beijing said it knew the case. However, citing privacy concerns, it claimed it could not make further comments, according to CNBC.

“The Department of State has no greater priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas,” 

the embassy said in a statement sent to the media houses.

John Shing-Wan Leung’s sentencing comes as US President Joe Biden travels to the Japanese city of Hiroshima to attend the Group of Seven (G7) summit.

He will also become the first sitting US President to visit Papua New Guinea, another Pacific island nation China wants to increase its influence. 

Biden will conclude his eight-day trip with a visit to Australia to attend the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) summit. The US President will meet his fellow Quad leaders: Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Kishida.

With relations getting from bad to worse, the United States will look to increase its pressure on China to get its citizen out of custody. However, considering the recent rhetoric, securing the release of John Shing-Wan Leung won’t be easy. 

China-US Relations, China-US relations worsen as Beijing sentences old US citizen to life in prison

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