China says detained Japan firm employee suspected of espionage

Chinese Foreign Ministry new spokesperson Mao Ning in Beijing
Chinese Foreign Ministry new spokesperson Mao Ning speaks at a news conference in Beijing, China September 5, 2022. REUTERS/Yew Lun Tian

BEIJING, March 27 (Reuters) - The Chinese foreign ministry said on Monday that an employee of Japanese firm Astellas Pharma had been detained on suspicion of espionage.

The relevant Chinese authorities earlier this month took compulsory criminal measures against a Japanese citizen in accordance with the law, spokesperson Mao Ning said at a regular news briefing.

"This Japanese citizen is suspected of engaging in espionage activities which violates criminal law and counter-espionage law," Mao said, adding that China had notified the Japanese embassy in China.

Mao said there were many similar cases in recent years and that Japan should do more to educate its citizens.

The company did not identify the employee and a spokesperson said it was not clear why he had been detained.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said on Monday that the Chinese authorities had notified the Japanese embassy in China this month that a Japanese male in his 50s was detained in Beijing for breaking Chinese domestic laws.

The Japanese government has been "strongly" demanding that China immediately release the Japanese national, the top government spokesperson told reporters.

"We have strongly requested consular visits and are providing as much support as possible,” Matsuno said.

According to Japanese media, the detained Japanese national has spent 20 years working in China and previously served as a senior official of The Japanese Chamber Commerce and Industry in China.

"I want to stress that, no matter whether it's a company or an individual, all must abide by laws and regulations. It's like this in any country and it is an international custom, Mao said.

"I think the person involved should be clear what criminal activities they committed. I want to stress again that China is a country governed by law, we will handle all cases according to the law and protect the legitimate rights and interests of the person involved."

Reporting by Laurie Chen, additonal reporting by Satoshi Sugiyama in Tokyo; Writing by Bernard Orr; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Sharon Singleton

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