Tokyo [Japan], March 27 (ANI): Japan has demanded that one of its citizens who is currently being held in China be released as soon as possible and he be allowed to speak with consular officials, a top spokesman said on Monday, Kyodo News reported.
China claims it has detained the man on suspicion of engaging in spying activities.
Mao Ning, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said the man is accused of breaking China's anti-espionage law but did not go into any detail. He is an employee of Japanese pharmaceutical company Astellas Pharma Inc, the company has verified.
At a press briefing, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno stated that the Japanese government is in touch with the man's relatives. He is in his mid-50s.
According to Kyodo News, this month, Chinese authorities informed the Japanese Embassy in Beijing that they had detained a Japanese man in Beijing for allegedly breaking Chinese law, spokesperson Mao said.
In a news conference held in Beijing on Monday, Mao also stated that in light of recent occurrences of such instances, Japan "needs to do more" to urge its residents not to partake in such activities and to better "educate" them on the subject.
According to a source in the Japanese government, cited by Kyodo News, the man was detained by Chinese counterespionage officials. The episode, according to a diplomatic source familiar with Japan-China relations, raises severe worries since it may "give an immeasurable blow" to the two countries' ties.
In a response to a question about international concerns regarding the alleged vagueness and arbitrary application of Chinese anti-espionage law, Mao responded, "Individuals engaged in unlawful practices should know what kind of illegal activities they have committed."China has a tradition of keeping court proceedings and allegations involving national security secret. Even after rulings are finalised, the details are not announced in most cases.
According to the spokeswoman, China will handle the Japanese businessman's case, decide whether to release him and facilitate the Japanese embassy's access to the citizen for consular purposes. The man was arrested by Chinese authorities right before his planned return to Japan this month, said a source mentioned by Kyodo News.
In order to safeguard national security, China has increased its monitoring of foreign groups and individuals. Several foreigners have been detained since the introduction of counterespionage and national security laws in 2014 and 2015, respectively.
The Astellas employee is one of 17 Japanese citizens who have been jailed in China since 2014 on suspicion of taking part in espionage activities. The Japanese Foreign Ministry reports that five of them remain detained in China, Kyodo News reported. (ANI)