China Says Evidence Strong In Rio Tinto Case

SYDNEY (AP) -- A senior Chinese official on Monday defended Beijing's handling of the industrial spying case against an Australian executive for mining giant Rio Tinto, and urged Australia to respect China's court processes.

Liu Jieyu, the deputy director of the Foreign Ministry's international department, said the alleged actions of Chinese-born Australian Stern Hu would have been illegal in Australia too, and that critics should wait for the facts to come to light.

Liu offered no new details of the allegations against Hu.

Hu, who heads mining giant Rio Tinto's Chinese iron ore business, was detained with three Chinese co-workers in Shanghai on July 5 during contentious iron ore price talks. State media say they are accused of bribing Chinese steel company employees to get information on China's negotiating stance.

Few other details have been made public, and the case has become politically charged. Australian government complaints that it is not getting enough direct information on the case from Beijing have fueled fears that Hu may not get a fair trial.

"The facts of the case would constitute a violation of Australian laws were the facts (to) happen here in Australia," Liu told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. in an interview aired Monday. Liu, who gave the interview during a visit to Australia, did not offer any further details.

"We are dealing with a violation of the Chinese law and in all legal proceedings in different countries there are different provisions about what can be released at what point of time," he said. "It is not up to me ... to say what the law requires and what the law permits."

He said Beijing expected foreign countries to respect China's judicial system, adding that "the Chinese government respects the independence of the Australian judicial system, I think we would expect the same from other countries."

"By dealing with this case, we are really establishing or we are really trying to establish a good environment for all companies in China -- foreign companies operating in China and local Chinese companies," he said.

Michael Danby, a government lawmaker and member of the Senate's foreign affairs committee who has been outspoken on Hu's case, said China should quickly charge Hu and make the detailed allegations public.

"There's only a facade of legality in China," Danby told Sky News television. "There is the law of the Communist Party in China that supersedes all of the ostensibly legal system that they have over there."

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