Oz, China spat over Rio Tinto 'spy' claim may be on the mend

Subscribe to Oneindia News

Shanghai, Aug.11 (ANI): With the Chinese Government backtracking on a website article that accused a British-Australian steel company of industrial espionage costing Beijing 100 billion dollars, and Australian diplomats in Shanghai meeting detained Rio Tinto executive for a second time, it appears as if ties between Beijing and Canberra are on the mend after weeks of tension.

Consular staff were last week permitted their second monthly prison visit with Rio Tinto executive Stern Hu since his arrest on July 5."We can confirm that another consular visit took place on Friday 7 August at Mr. Hu's place of detention," a spokeswoman was quoted, as saying, adding that Hu was in good health and had no "welfare concerns."

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said the government was pleased that Hu's "health and welfare continues to be in good order."

"We've reported that visit to his employer and to his family, and we continue to urge the Chinese authorities to deal with their investigation expeditiously," Smith told state broadcaster ABC radio.

"We're not in a position to discuss the details of his case or any possible charges against him, but we have raised both at that particular visit and generally the question of legal representation for Stern Hu," he added.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Smith also said that the withdrawal of the report from the China State Secrets Bureau website at the weekend in which it was stated that Rio had waged a six-year industrial espionage campaign that cost Beijing more than 100 billion dollars showed it was not an official view and would have no bearing on Hu's case.

"It's now quite clear given that the article has been taken off the website, that it was essentially the opinion of the writer and not, if you like, officially sanctioned," Smith said.

Rio's iron ore chief executive Sam Walsh welcomed the news that Hu appeared well, but said the company remained concerned for his health and welfare.

He also expressed "surprise and concern" at the detention of Hu and three other Rio employees, and said no charges had, to his knowledge, been laid.

A company spokeswoman also noted the removal of the industrial espionage article, but declined to comment further.

The Chinese official who made the accusations later said he was only stating his personal views.

Hu, an Australian passport-holder, is accused of bribing Chinese steel mill officials during tough iron ore contract negotiations.

His arrest along with three Chinese colleagues followed Rio's snubbing of a proposed 19.5 billion US dollar investment from China's state-owned metals giant Chinalco, raising speculation the events were linked. (ANI)

Please Wait while comments are loading...