Friday, July 24, 2009

Business Search for: News News Smith raised Hu case with Chinese

( -FOREIGN Minister Stephen Smith has raised the case of a detained Australian mining executive with his Chinese counterpart.

Stern Hu, who was in charge of Rio Tinto's iron ore operations in China, was arrested in early July on suspicion of spying and stealing state secrets.

The Shanghai-based executive is yet to be charged, 18 days after he was first detained.

Mr Smith said he raised the matter with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) regional forum, in Thailand.

"We spoke about a number of matters but I'm happy to indicate to you that, in the part of the conversation which related to Mr Hu, I repeated the representations that I and our officials had made previously, which was that we wanted the matter to be dealt with expeditiously," Mr Smith told reporters in Phuket.

Mr Smith said Mr Yang stressed China's relationship with Australia would not be compromised by the detention of Mr Hu, a Chinese-born Australian citizen.

"Both of us have been at pains to make the point that we don't see this going to the wider relationship, which we regard as very good on the economic front," he said.

Mr Smith declined to say if charges were closer to being laid, but he rejected calls from the opposition for Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to directly contact Chinese President Hu Jintao.

"This is an issue which is sensitive and difficult and complex. This is not an issue which is going to be resolved by one phone call or by one meeting between ministers and ministers," he said.

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