Japan is urging China to release a citizen sentenced to 12 years in prison on espionage charges, a Tokyo government spokesman said Monday (13/11).
“We learned that on November 3, the 12-year prison sentence against a Japanese man in his 50s, who was detained in July 2019, was finalized, as his appeal was rejected” at the high court in China’s Hunan Province, Hirokazu Matsuno told journalist. “The Japanese government will continue to offer all the support we can from the perspective of protecting Japanese citizens,” he added.
When asked about the case, China’s Foreign Ministry declined to provide details, instead referring the AFP news agency to “competent authorities.” “What I can tell you is that China is a country governed by the rule of law, handling related cases accordingly with the law and protect the legitimate rights and interests of relevant parties,” spokesman Mao Ning said at a regular press conference on Monday.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands during their meeting on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, November 17, 2022, in Bangkok. (Photo: Kyodo via AP)
Since amendments to China’s anti-espionage law took effect in 2015, at least 17 Japanese people have been detained by Chinese authorities, according to Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Last month, the Japanese embassy confirmed that one of its citizens – an employee of Japanese pharmaceutical company Astellas – was formally arrested, months after Beijing said it was detaining the man on spying charges.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida are scheduled to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco this week. But Matsuno said there were “no definite plans regarding a Japan-China summit” on the sidelines of the meeting.
Local Japanese media reported that diplomats from both sides were trying to set up a meeting between the leaders in San Francisco. If Xi and Kishida do hold talks, the agenda will likely include Japanese citizens detained by China, Japanese news agency Jiji reported, citing unnamed government sources.
Kishida will also discuss China’s ban on imports of Japanese seafood following the discharge of wastewater from the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant in Tokyo, Jiji reported.
Beijing has also detained a number of people, both Japanese and Chinese, in recent years on charges of spying for its neighboring country.
Perennial rivals in East Asia, tensions between China and Japan have long flared over territorial disputes, Tokyo’s colonial history and other conflicts.
Tensions have risen since Tokyo this year began discharging treated wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear disaster site, a move international agencies say is safe. However, Beijing criticized the action as irresponsible. (ab/ka)