Australian 'spy' secretly tried

Australian consular officials were not allowed to attend the trial of James Sun, who was jailed five years ago for spying.

THE federal government has disclosed that 39 Australians are incarcerated in China, and Taiwan has angrily denied the Australian James Sun was a spy.

Yesterday the Herald revealed that Sun had spent five years in a Chinese jail, including two on death row, after being convicted of spying for Taiwan. He is now serving a life sentence.

The Australian embassy in Beijing was not allowed to attend Sun's trial but it has been providing regular consular visits.

A strongly worded statement from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office angrily denied the country had anything to do with Sun. It rejected allegations it was recruiting agents within the Australian-Chinese community.

The verdict of the Chinese court, obtained by the Herald, said Sun had confessed to being recruited as a spy for Taiwan while a student in Australia.

The ''allegation is a sheer fabrication concocted by the repressive totalitarian security apparatus to smear Taiwan,'' the statement said. ''The operations of the TECO in Australia have always been transparent, law abiding and conducive to the righteous cause of safeguarding rule of law, freedom of expression and human rights.''

Taiwan called for Sun to be given a fair trial, a plea echoed by the Greens leader, Bob Brown.

"Mr Sun was denied an open, free and fair trial and the Australian government should reveal what steps it has taken over the past three years to protect his rights, and why the whole matter has been kept secret," he said.

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the Privacy Act had prevented it commenting on Sun's case, which it had not kept secret.

DFAT said the 21 Australians in prison were serving sentences for fraud, drug crimes, embezzlement, murder and espionage. Eighteen were being investigated or awaiting trial.

The shadow attorney-general, George Brandis, said the government had to explain why it had delayed for more than three years the operation of the treaty to allow the repatriation of prisoners from China.

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