Foreign governments have at times accused China of arresting foreigners as political pawns, as in the case of two Canadians arrested in 2018 after Canada detained a prominent Chinese technology executive. An Australian businessman and writer, Yang Hengjun, is still in detention in China, and an Australian journalist, Cheng Lei, was released in October. Both had been accused of unrelated national security offenses and have denied wrongdoing.
There is no official tally of the number of foreigners detained in China. Information about the charges against them is usually highly limited. While detained foreigners’ governments or relatives sometimes speak up about their cases, some remain quiet, possibly in hopes of negotiating behind the scenes with Beijing.
Mr. Stones, who is around 70, had worked as a senior manager for General Motors Asia, helping it to expand in China in the 1990s, and as a manager in China for Pfizer Pharmaceuticals. At the time of his detention, he had been working for over a decade as a consultant advising investors on deals, regulations and disputes in China, according to his LinkedIn page, which is no longer available online.
With his decades of experience in the country and fluency in Chinese, he was well known among Western investors and executives in Beijing. On LinkedIn, Mr. Stones said that Navisino Partners, a consulting company where he was a partner, specialized in “finding solutions to difficult challenges, structuring deals, work-outs, turnarounds.”
He also had relationships with Chinese government agencies; he had presented to China’s National Bureau of Statistics, according to an annual report in 2007 by The Conference Board, a New York-based business research group where he was a senior adviser.