| 16 June 2024, Sunday |

Foreign nationals detained in China

Australian journalist Cheng Lei returned home on Wednesday after being detained by Chinese authorities for more than three years on national security charges.

Here are some other high-profile cases of foreign nationals detained in China:


The Australian writer has been detained in China for more than three years, and in 2021 was tried in Beijing on undisclosed national security charges. His arrest coincided with worsening relations between Australia and China and a verdict in his case has been repeatedly delayed.

Yang, who was born in China but is an Australian citizen, has denied working as a spy for Australia or the United States.

Friends of the pro-democracy blogger say they fear for his deteriorating health in detention.


A Japanese employee of Astellas Pharma Inc, who has not been identified publicly, was detained in Beijing in March on suspicion of espionage, sending a chill through the Japanese business community in China.

The man in his 50s worked in China for more than 20 years and is an executive, according to Japanese media reports. Beijing was expected to decide soon on whether to formally arrest the businessman, Kyodo reported last month.

The Chinese foreign ministry, when asked last month if the Japanese employee had been arrested, said foreign nationals in China must abide by the country’s laws or be prosecuted otherwise.

Japan’s government has said it would continue to strongly demand his release.


A Canadian citizen arrested in China in 2014 for suspected drug smuggling and convicted in 2018. He was initially sentenced to 15 years in jail but subsequently condemned to death by a court in January 2019 – a month after Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Vancouver on a warrant from the United States.

His death penalty was upheld by a Chinese court in 2021. Canada has strongly condemned the decision to uphold the death sentence.


The Texas-based businessman was convicted by a Chinese court on drug-related charges and in 2019 was given a death sentence with reprieve. A United Nations working group has concluded he was arbitrarily detained in violation of international law.

He has been imprisoned for more than 10 years, according to his mother, Katherine Swidan.


Li, who is Chinese-American, has been detained in China since 2016. A court handed him a 10-year jail sentence in 2018 on espionage charges, which he denies, his son, Harrison Li, told Reuters.

  • Reuters