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China says Japanese citizen detained for espionage

March 27, 2023

Tokyo has called on Beijing to release a Japanese citizen who China said was held on suspicion of "engaging in espionage activities."

Illustration: flags of Japan and China painted on cracked wall
Tokyo and Beijing have been increasingly at odds in recent years Image: daniel0Z/Zoonar/picture alliance

A Japanese man was taken into custody in Beijing earlier in March over allegedly violating domestic law, China said on Monday.

"Relevant Chinese authorities took criminal coercive measures this month against a Japanese citizen, in accordance with the law," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said during a regular press briefing.

"This Japanese citizen is suspected of  engaging in espionage activities, in violation of the criminal law and the anti-espionage law of the People's Republic of China" Mao added.

Tokyo has called for the release of the Japanese citizen.

How did Japan respond? 

Japan's government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters that "ever since we learned about this case, the Japanese government has been strongly urging the immediate release of this Japanese national."

The spokesman gave no details on the man's identity, his alleged crime or when he had been arrested.

He added that Tokyo was actively seeking consular access to the man.

What do we know about the detained man?

Astellas Pharma Inc., a Japanese pharmaceutical company, said the man held in Beijing is an employee of the firm.

The company, however, declined to disclose any further details including his name, position and whether he was based in China.

The company said it was seeking information from the Japanese Foreign Ministry to take appropriate action.

Local media described the man as a veteran expat in China who had worked in the country for two decades.

Beijing on Monday said that "similar cases have occurred repeatedly among Japanese citizens in recent years."

A Japanese professor was detained by Chinese authorities in October 2019, on suspicion of spying.

A Japanese diplomat was detained for questioning in 2022 and was released hours later, prompting strong protests from Japan's Foreign Ministry.

dmn/fb (AFP,AP)

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