Mainland academic Lu Jianhua, arrested in connection with the spying case of Hong Kong journalist Ching Cheong, has been secretly jailed for 20 years for leaking state secrets. Mr Lu's wife, Qu Liqiu, was only told of the sentence by a Beijing court yesterday when she called to confirm reports about it. The court also told her he had decided to appeal, Ms Qu said. She was shocked by the sentence. 'It is ridiculous. They don't need any evidence to convict a person.' Ms Qu said the court had also turned down her request to see her husband. 'The only chance for me to see him was when they delivered the verdict on Monday, but nobody notified me,' she said. The sentence handed down to the 46-year-old sociologist is unusually harsh for the charge, as usually only very serious cases will be given more than 10 years. Lu, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, disappeared in the middle of last year and was tried behind closed doors around the time Ching was tried for spying for Taiwan. In a report on Ching's verdict published by a pro-Beijing newspaper in Hong Kong, Lu was accused of writing articles for Ching containing 'top state secrets'. Ching sent the articles to a Taiwan-based foundation that mainland security agents said was an intelligence organisation. Ching was sentenced to five years, in late August, for espionage. His appeal was rejected last month. When asked if the mainland employed double standards in sentencing Lu to a much longer term when the two cases were related, Ms Qu said: 'Throughout China's history, the mainland has always been more ruthless to its own people [than to outsiders].' Lu did not hire a lawyer to defend himself during the first trial and Ms Qu said he had no plan to hire one for his appeal. 'That is his decision and I respect it,' she said. Speaking at a regular press briefing yesterday, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Qin Gang defended the ruling. 'China is a country that is ruled by law and the courts pass sentences based on the evidence of facts and principles of the law.' Ms Qu said she did not know how to help her husband. 'It is not like Hong Kong. In the environment on the mainland, there are a lot of things that we cannot do.' Ching's wife, Mary Lau Man-yee, said she was shocked to learn that Lu had been jailed for 20 years and would support any appeal efforts. 'I think it's ridiculous because he didn't commit any crime,' Ms Lau said. 'He only responded to the invitation from Ching Cheong, who worked for The Straits Times then, to contribute articles to the paper.' Describing Lu and Ching as friends, Ms Lau said Lu had contributed articles to the paper for a long time.