A British businessman who disappeared from public view in China in 2018 was sentenced to five years in prison in 2022, China’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday, in its first public acknowledgment of the case.
The businessman, Ian J. Stones, had lived in China since the 1970s, working for companies like General Motors and Pfizer. For years after he vanished, there was no public information about his whereabouts, though some in the business community privately discussed his secret detention.
A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry said that Mr. Stones had been convicted in 2022 of “buying and unlawfully supplying intelligence for an organization or individual outside China.” Mr. Stones’s appeal of the verdict was rejected in September 2023, said the spokesman, Wang Wenbin.
Mr. Wang was responding to reporters’ questions at a regularly scheduled news conference, after The Wall Street Journal reported Mr. Stones’s case on Thursday.
“The Chinese courts heard the trial strictly in accordance with the law,” Mr. Wang said, adding that China “protects the lawful rights of Chinese and foreign parties.”
It is unclear when Mr. Stones will be released and whether he will be given credit for time served before his conviction.