Beijing — China confirmed on Friday that it had sentenced a British national in 2022 to five years in jail for spying. It was its first official comment of a case that had gone unreported until this week.
A Beijing court in 2022 “sentenced in the first instance the British defendant … to five years in prison for the crime of illegally obtaining intelligence for overseas actors,” foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said.
After an appeal, he added, the case was upheld in September.
The Wall Street Journal first broke news of the case of Ian Stones on Thursday. Citing his family and other sources, it said the U.K. businessman he had disappeared in 2018 after decades of work in China.
Asked about the report Friday, Wang, referring to Stones by a Chinese name, said the “court tried the case strictly in accordance with the law.”
Beijing, he said, “fully guaranteed the various legitimate rights” of the prisoner and had arranged for British officials to visit him and attend his trial.
“China is a country governed by the rule of law,” Wang said.
“The judicial organs strictly promote the handling of cases in accordance with the law, safeguarding the rights and legitimate interests of both Chinese nationals and foreigners,” he added.