China Confirms Rio Detentions

SYDNEY/BEIJING - China confirmed on Thursday the arrest of an Australian mining executive and three others on spying allegations, in a case that has rattled currency markets and raised questions about China-Australia relations.

By (Reuters)

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Published: Sat 11 Jul 2009, 12:04 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 7:35 AM

The four employees of miner Rio Tinto were arrested on charges of stealing state secrets, the official Xinhua news agency said, citing Shanghai state security authorities.

“The case was being investigated according to law,” Xinhua said. It gave no further details.

Reports of the detentions had already emerged from Australian sources in recent days, with investors concerned the affair could hurt trade ties between Australia and its biggest trade partner.

Australia’s Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said his officials were yet to talk to Stern Hu, global miner Rio Tinto Ltd’s top iron ore salesman in China, after his weekend detention and were keen to ensure Hu had not been mistreated.

“One of the reasons why we want access to him, is to satisfy ourselves as to his welfare, to satisfy ourselves as to his well-being and to get some indication from him as to how we can be of assistance,” Smith told Australianstate television.Chinese authorities detained Hu on Sunday. Three Chinese members of Hu’s Shanghai-based team were also detained and named in Australian newspapers on Thursday as Rio Tinto sales employees Wang Yong, Ke Ge and Jeff Liu.

Smith described the spying accusations as “very surprising” and said the government was seeking urgent access to Hu, an Australian, and wanted to know more ahead of a Saturday deadline for consular access to Hu by Australian diplomats in China.

Fears the issue could damage trade ties saw the Australian dollar slump against the yen in offshore trade in its biggest one-day drop in 2- months, hit partly by worries the detention could damage relations.

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