Thursday, July 9, 2009

Spy Charges a crisis for Canberra

China's tantrums, she has to be right like an spoiled brat
this is something the junta has to watch out
it could happen to the Burmese generals anytime...
ANALYSIS: Rowan Callick

STERN Hu, or Hu Shitai, to use his Chinese name, is a rare case of a foreigner charged with stealing state secrets.

Overseas businesspeople have tended to be treated with some care in China, whose economic rise has been substantially driven by foreign investors.

But people who are ethnically Chinese tend to be treated as if they were citizens of the People's Republic, whatever their chosen new nationality.

Mr Hu is not a hapless, indiscreet entrepreneur who might have strayed over a nebulous line by mistake. He is a corporate figure, Rio Tinto's second-most senior executive in China and the head of its Shanghai office, responsible for negotiating iron ore prices and marketing iron ore into Rio's biggest market.

His best hope for fair treatment is for his case to be widely publicised. It thus appears odd that his employer and the Australian government appear to have downplayed his predicament for two or more days.

Rumours are flying inside China as to what Mr Stern is supposed to have done wrong, but it may not become clear for some time what the security services' case may be.

This is a crisis not only for Mr Stern and his family in Shanghai, but also for Canberra, because it appears to put in question Australia's main export to China - $18billion of iron ore sales last year, out of a total $32.5 billion.

Businesspeople from Taiwan have often been charged with stealing state secrets, as have journalists. A Chinese journalist spent 12 years in jail for projecting a likely move in central bank interest rates.

China Digital Times comments: "Chinese authorities often use 'state secrets' charges to arrest government critics and others who write or talk about sensitive political subjects. Yet the government has not made public a clear definition of what constitutes a state secret, making it difficult for journalists and others to protect themselves from violating an often nebulous law."

The Xinhua news agency said last week that the legislature was now reviewing the law because, said Xia Yong, head of the National Administration for the Protection of State Secrets, parts of it had become obsolete.

He said: "New situations and problems have emerged in guarding state secrets ... especially with the introduction and development of information technology and the application of e-government."

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