Well, there is one thing you cannot say about the Chinese Government and that is they are not intimately involved in their nation’s economy.
On the back of a surprise rejection of Chinalco’s offer to buy a significant chunk of Rio Tinto, China has Australian Rio Tinto executives into “criminal custody” (i.e. they are not yet arrested, but they soon will be once they work out the charges). China is letting the world know that the executives are being charged with “prying & stealing” state secrets that “harm economic interests and security”.
Given China’s history of trumped up espionage charges for journalists and other businessmen, the world is somewhat skeptical of the claims being made against the men. The Australian Embassy is already pursuing consular access to the accused, which must be given by Saturday according to an agreement between China & Australia.
Of course, it didn’t take long for the Opposition to jump in with some “demands” for Kevin Rudd in how to handle the situation. Turnbull demanded Kevin Rudd “get on the phone immediately to the Chinese president and demand that the Australian citizen, Mr Stern Hu, be released and be given access to Australian consular officials. The Chinese government must release Mr Hu or charge him” Of course, charging in like bull in a china shop (no pun intended) is exactly how negotiations should proceed in a case like this. We all know that China responds very well to demands don’t we?
Rudd has, as expected, declined to act as rashly as Turnbull advocates. He is being supported by a few experts on the matter… not to mention plain old common sense. I expect we’ll be seeing this issue gain more prominence in the coming days as –
- It is effecting confidence in foreign companies involved with China as, at the line between what is a “state secret” and what is “business knowledge” is somewhat blurry when the government owns &/or controls many of the major corporations.
- Malcolm Turnbull seems to think this is an issue he can stir up some support in. As such, I expect we shall hear some more demand on Kevin to act like a drunken Texan with a shiny new hand-gun
- The deadline for consular access is within the next 48 hours. We’re most likely going to hear something about the executives’ condition from an official source. Unless a bomb goes off somewhere, this will be just in time for the Sunday papers.
I’m curious about other people’s opinion on the issue. Do we think this is trumped up charges because China has a case of sour grapes? Is Kevin Rudd doing enough to ensure justice is served in this case? What do people think this kind of behavior will do to foreign investment in China and, in turn, Australia’s economy?
Update: It would appear China is charging the executives with leaking the “bottom line” on the steel industry obtained through bribing Chinese executives. I would not be surprised if this is true, but from the article linked – it would seem to be a common-place occurence that China is trying to stamp out. The fact the leaking of “business secrets” has become an espionage / national security issue in China is the nation’s ownership of major companies affecting their economy. In Australia, this would most likely be a civil case.
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