China Says It Has Enough Evidence On Rio Employees

BEIJING (AP) -- China has told Australia it has "ample evidence" a detained Australian manager for miner Rio Tinto Ltd. and three co-workers stole state secrets, a Chinese diplomat said Wednesday.

He Yafei, a deputy foreign minister, said he briefed Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith on the case at a conference last week in Egypt.

"I told him we have ample evidence showing that some individuals involved acquired Chinese national secrets through illegal means," He said at a news briefing.

The Rio employees were detained July 5 in the midst of iron ore price talks with Chinese steel mills. State media say they are accused of paying bribes to get confidential information on China's negotiating position.

He gave no additional details of the accusations against the Australian, Stern Hu, and his Chinese co-workers.

"This case has gone into the judicial process. We have asked the Australian side to respect the judicial sovereignty of China," He said.

The diplomat downplayed suggestions in Australia that the case might harm business ties between the two countries. China is Australia's biggest export market.

"This will not and should not affect normal trade relations between the two countries. China would not want to see this," He said. "And I think the Australian side will treat this just as an individual case."