Melbourne/Beijing: Australian Prime
Minister Kevin Rudd on Tuesday charged that secrecy surrounding the
trial of four Rio Tinto executives in China for commercial
spying has left room for doubt, triggering a major diplomatic
spat with Beijing.
The in-camera hearing during parts of the trial
dealing with trading in commercial secrets left "serious
unanswered" questions about the conviction, he told reporters.
"This has left serious unanswered questions about this
conviction. In holding this part of the trial in secret,
China, I believe, has missed an opportunity to demonstrate to
the world at large transparency that would be consistent with
its emerging global role," Rudd said in harsh comments.
A Shanghai court yesterday found Australian executive
Stern Hu and three Chinese co-workers guilty of bribery and
passing commercial secrets and sentenced Hu to 7 years in jail
and five years on stealing trade secret charges.
Chinese employee Wang Yong also received a sentence of
14 years for receiving USD 9 million in bribe. Two others Ge
Minqiang and Liu Caikui were sentenced to 8 to 7 years
respectively, in the first-ever case involving foreign firms.
The strong comments of the Australian prime minister
were followed by country`s major commerce groups, which said
that the trial could harm business confidence in China.
The Australians are also upset that the media and the
diplomats were kept out of the court as it considered stealing
of commercial secrets.
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the
apex body of the country`s trading company, said the Rio Tinto
case has raised question marks about foreign companies
operating in China and that need to be clarified. It also said
that rules in China about detention without trial should also
Taking strong exception to remarks of Australian Prime
Minister, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told
reporters that "Australia should respect the court verdict and
stop making such irresponsible remarks."
"We express serious concern over the Australian
remarks," Qin said.
Earlier, Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith
said the case could raise concerns for foreign companies doing
business in China, the emerging economic power house which is
Australia`s biggest trading partner.
Opposition Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop
has accused the Government of letting down Hu by not insisting
Australian officials attend the full trial.
Bishop said a consular agreement with China meant
Australia had the right to be in court.
Rudd defended the Government`s response, saying
authorities had made "strong, high-level and frequent
representations" of behalf of Hu, and would continue to do so,
AAP report said.