Representative Image Tyrone Siu/Reuters

A British businessman living in China, who disappeared five years ago without any trace, was secretly convicted of espionage charges in 2022 by the Chinese authorities.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs finally released updates on his whereabouts on Friday. Stones disappeared from public life in 2018. He had lived in China since the 1970s, working for companies like General Motors and Pfizer.

A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, Wang Wenbin, told reporters that the court had "tried the case strictly in accordance with the law". The spokesperson was responding to a report by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) that brought Stones' case to light on Thursday.

He did not give any additional details about Stones' imprisonment, adding that Chinese authorities had "fully guaranteed the various legitimate rights" and also arranged for British officials to visit him and attend his trial.

However, Stones' daughter told the WSJ that the family was not allowed to see documents related to his arrest.

The report about Stones' disappearance surfaced weeks after another person was arrested by China for allegedly spying for Britain's MI6 intelligence service.

China's Ministry of State Security (MSS) alleged that MI6 established an "intelligence cooperation relationship" with a foreign national.

The spokesperson was responding to a Wall Street Journal report that brought Stones' case to light on Thursday. The person, identified only by his surname Huang, reportedly headed a foreign consulting agency in China.

The MSS, in a statement, said that he "entered China several times under instructions to use their public profile as a cover to collect China-related intelligence for Britain... and seek other personnel whom MI6 could turn".

It went on to claim that Huang collected confidential state secrets and passed them on to MI6 before being identified. The ministry further states that he received "professional intelligence training" in Britain and had used "specialist spying equipment" to send communications.

Both the UK and China have accused each other of espionage. The UK government has said that Chinese spies are increasingly targeting officials.

"You may be detained without having intended to break the law," the UK says in its foreign travel advice for the country. China has rejected all such allegations, claiming that they are "entirely groundless".

"We urge the UK to stop spreading disinformation and stop political manipulation and malicious slander against China," said a foreign ministry spokesperson.

The relations between the two countries have worsened in recent times, with the UK constantly condemning China's repression of Muslims in the Xinjiang region and civil rights in Hong Kong, a former British colony.