Australian writer Yang Hengjun has been given a suspended death sentence by a Chinese court, five years after he was arrested and accused of spying.

The sentence may be commuted to life imprisonment after two years, according to Australian officials.

Dr Yang – a scholar and novelist who blogged about Chinese state affairs – denies the charges, which have not been made public.

The Australian government says it is “appalled” by the outcome.

It comes after a landmark visit to China by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese late last year, which was aimed at improving relations that had been deteriorating in recent years.