(BEIJING) — Four employees of the Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto Ltd. have been formally arrested on charges of infringing trade secrets and bribery, a state news agency said Wednesday, in a case that has strained relations with Australia.
Xinhua News Agency said preliminary investigations showed the four employees, including Australian citizen Stern Hu, had obtained commercial secrets about China's steel and iron industries through "improper means" and were involved in bribery. (Read "Aussie Mining Exec Arrested for Spying in China.")
They report made no mention of the more serious charge of stealing state secrets, which Chinese media have been saying the four would be accused of since they were detained nearly six weeks ago.
Xinhua said Chinese prosecutors had found evidence of bribery and that some individuals in Chinese steel and iron companies were suspected of providing the Rio employees with commercial secrets. No specific details were given.
Amanda Buckley, Rio Tinto's spokeswoman in Melbourne, Australia, declined to comment, saying the company had not received official confirmation of the arrest and charges.
Chinese-born Hu, the manager of Rio Tinto's Chinese iron ore business, and three Chinese co-workers were detained July 5 as protracted talks on iron ore prices were under way with Chinese steel mills.
The few details of the case that are known have come from state-owned Chinese media, including accusations Hu paid bribes to Chinese officials for information on China's negotiating stance in iron ore price talks.
The reports said Hu's actions amounted to stealing state secrets, and executives of at least five major Chinese mills are being questioned. A Chinese diplomat said in July that China had told Australia it had "ample evidence" that Hu and his three co-workers stole state secrets.
Australia is a major supplier of iron ore and other minerals to resource-hungry China.
The case has raised tensions between Beijing and Canberra, where the government is concerned that the case is moving too slowly and that Hu may not receive a fair trial.
Australia's government was aware of media reports of the Rio workers' formal arrest and charges being laid, but had not yet received formal advice to that effect from Chinese authorities, the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
每年中国与澳洲都因为铁矿沙价钱倾唔掂数. 早两年铁矿沙价钱分别升左90%及65%, 阿爷每次都系过晒deadline 先勉强就范. 今年阿爷唔制啦, 拉左你班友仔困几个月先算. 反正响中国做生意, 贪污賄賂一定有, 拉Q 左你坐一年半栽再慢慢审都未迟. 而且窃取国家机密罪更加简单, 任何野都可以系国家机密, 只要阿爷话嗰D野你唔知得, 而你又唔觉意知左, 甘米系「窃取国家机密」咯! 今次如果澳洲企硬嗰铁矿沙价钱, 睇怕嗰4个人随时比北韩判美籍女记者12年劳改更大镬. 我諗澳洲都系熬底多架啦, 拿拿淋减价, 阿爷米放人保外就医咯.