Photo/IllutrationAn intermediate people’s court in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, which sentenced a Japanese man to 12 years in prison on July 10 (Mitsusada Enyo)

HANGZHOU, China--An intermediate people’s court here sentenced a Japanese man in his 50s to 12 years in prison on July 10 on spying and other charges, according to sources related to Japan-China relations.

The man, from Aichi Prefecture, was the first to have a ruling among eight Japanese who have been detained in China in succession since 2015 on suspicion of spying and other charges and have since been indicted.

The man was also the first to be detained among the eight.

The intermediate people's court, located in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, near Shanghai, is equivalent to a district court in Japan.

It is extremely rare for a Chinese court to rule that a Japanese was engaged in spying activities in China.

The verdict could adversely affect Japan-China relations, which have been improving. In May this year, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited Japan. Plans are also being made for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to visit China later this year.

According to sources, the man was found guilty of several charges, including spying. The ruling again demonstrated the strict stance of Chinese leadership, led by President Xi Jinping, against "infiltration by foreign powers.”

The Japanese man was detained in May 2015 on an island off the coast of Wenzhou, also in Zhejiang province, by state securities authorities. There is a report that he was taking photos on the island, which is believed to have been developed as a military stronghold.

The man was indicted in May 2016. His first hearing, which was undisclosed, was held the following month.

(This article was written by Kanako Miyajima and Mitsusada Enyo in Hangzhou.)