China charges Australian with embezzlement: Canberra

Matthew Ng was detained on suspicion of "misappropriating company assets".

Sydney: The Australian boss of a travel company based in southern China has been charged with embezzlement, Foreign Ministry officials in Canberra said on Thursday, stressing their "strong interest" in his case.

Et-China chief executive Matthew Ng was formally charged on Tuesday, a foreign office spokeswoman said, two weeks after he was detained in the southern city of Guangzhou on suspicion of "misappropriating company assets".

"The Australian Government is monitoring developments closely to ensure due legal process is followed," the spokeswoman said.

"The Australian consulate-general in Guangzhou has raised the Australian government`s strong interest in the case at senior levels of the Guangdong (provincial) government,` she added.

Ng`s case comes just months after four employees of Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto, including Australian passport-holder Stern Hu, were jailed in China on bribery and trade secrets charges.

The spokeswoman stressed that Ng`s charges "relate to embezzlement and are very different to the ones faced by Mr Hu, which related to bribery and theft of commercial secrets."

Hu`s trial strained relations between Beijing and Canberra, and stoked concerns among foreign investors about the rule of law in China.

Consular officials had visited Ng last month and would see him again on December 07, the spokeswoman said, adding that officials would "continue to monitor his welfare".

London-listed Et-China issued a statement in support of Ng following his detention and said it would be seeking "an early resolution of this matter to enable him to resume his role as chief executive officer as soon as possible".

Chinese media have said Ng`s detention could be linked to his role in Et-China`s acquisition of domestic travel agency GZL, one of the largest leisure travel companies in southern China.

Et-China was reportedly involved in a legal battle with Lingnan Group, a Guangzhou government-owned travel company, over control of GZL.