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Australia-China relations: Canberra voices ‘outrage’ at suspended death sentence for writer Yang Jun

Australia has conveyed “our dismay, our despair, our frustration, but to put it really simply, our outrage at this verdict,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told reporters in Canberra.

“This is a very harsh sentence on Dr Yang, who is a man who’s not in good health, and we will continue to make the strongest representations,” the Australian leader said.

Australia’s foreign ministry said it understood the sentence may be commuted to life imprisonment if no “serious crimes” are committed for two years.

The writer, whose pen name is Yang Hengjun, has denied the allegations, telling supporters he was tortured at a secret detention site and that he feared forced confessions may be used against him.

Albanese said his government had summoned the Chinese ambassador to Australia, Xiao Qian, on Monday and would make representations “at all levels”.

“We have said very clearly that we will cooperate with China where we can, but we’ll disagree where we must. We must disagree with this harsh action by China. We have done so. We will continue to do so,” Albanese said.

The prime minister declined to say whether he would withdraw his invitation last year for Chinese Premier Li Qiang to visit Australia.

“We’ll respond directly and clearly and unequivocally to China. What we won’t do is conduct diplomatic negotiations through the media,” Albanese said.

Australia’s prime minister had managed to put a floor under relations with China in the past 18 months, McGregor said. “This is a reminder that there is also a ceiling.”

In response, Beijing slapped high tariffs on key Australian exports, including barley, beef and wine, while halting its coal imports.

The severity of Yang’s sentence appeared to catch the Australian government by surprise, with