China Backs Off Accusations Against Mining Giant

The New York Times gives an update on the charges against China-based Rio TInto employees:

China appeared on Monday to step away from accusations made over the weekend that the British-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto had engaged in commercial espionage against China for six years that cost the country about $100 billion.

The accusations were published late Saturday or early Sunday on, a Web site affiliated with China’s State Secrets bureau, but on Monday, the Web site was down for part of the day, and when it resumed operating, the article was no longer posted.

Since late June, after China broke off acrimonious iron ore negotiations with Rio Tinto and other big mining companies, its state-controlled media and Web sites have published a series of damaging reports about Rio Tinto, bribery and corruption in China’s steel and iron ore industry. The negotiations have recently resumed.

The author of the article, Jiang Ruqin, is an official with the State Secrets bureau. In an interview on Monday with the Bloomberg and Dow Jones news agencies, he said that he had not been assigned to write the article, but was expressing his own opinion. “I just wanted to write the article because this situation’s impact is really big,” he said. “It affects the country’s economic security.”

An editor at the Sydney Morning Herald wrote an op-ed in response to the original accusations:

When this was reported widely in the international media yesterday, the article, a long diatribe in Mandarin, was removed from the website. The reason is obvious. This material has nothing to do with criminal jurisprudence. It is a venomous, nationalistic rant.

It exposes the motivation, or at the very least the prejudices, of the National Administration for the Protection of State Secrets, the authority conducting the prosecution of Stern Hu and his three Rio colleagues who have now been held in China for four weeks without charge. This is now, undeniably, a political case.

We already know what it’s like to live in the new China growth zone. That was all the exuberant news about resource prices. Now Beijing is instructing us in what it might feel like to live in the China political zone as well.

See also “Searching for truth in Middle Kingdom’s mixed messages” from the Australian.

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