China hits back at Australian criticism


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31-03-2010 08:12 AM


ABC Canberra 666

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ABC Canberra 666


31-03-2010 08:12 AM



31-03-2010 08:47 AM

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2010-03-31 08:12:01

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China hits back at Australian criticism -

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TONY EASTLEY: China has no shortage of foreign companies knocking at its door wanting to get in;
the Mandarins certainly have their hands full.

But at the moment a lot of China's focus is being taken up by one firm and the fallout from a court
case that saw long jail sentences handed out this week for bribery and corruption.

Former Rio Tinto executive, Stern Hu's jailing for ten years prompted the Australian Government to
publicly criticise the secretive nature of the Chinese court hearing in Shanghai.

Overnight, the Chinese Foreign Ministry fired back, telling Australia to keep its nose out of
China's legal business.

From Beijing, the ABC's Tom Iggulden reports.

TOM IGGULDEN: China's Foreign Ministry is prickly at the best of times when it comes to foreign
criticism. Throughout the course of the Rio Tinto trial, Canberra assiduously avoided direct
comment on proceedings.

But when verdicts were handed out, sprinkled among comments about respecting the trial's outcome
and the strength of the Sino-Australian relationship were slightly more pointed observations from
the Foreign Minister Stephen Smith.

The Government would have preferred it, he pointed out, if the court session regarding one of the
two charges against Stern Hu hadn't been conducted in secret. That hasn't gone down well with the
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang.

Could I get your reaction to comments yesterday from the Australian Foreign Minister that the Stern
Hu trial was a missed opportunity for China to demonstrate that its legal system is open and

QIN GANG (translated): We express serious concern about the Australian statements on the Rio Tinto
case. The Rio case is a criminal case and the Chinese side has already given its verdict. Australia
should respect this outcome and stop making irresponsible comments.

TOM IGGULDEN: The secret court session that convicted Stern Hu on the charges of industrial
espionage is not the only touchy area. Soon after Mr Hu was sentenced to 10 years' jail, the
Foreign Minister Stephen Smith was asked about a prisoner exchange agreement between China and

Mr Smith simply indicated progress was being made, but it's yet to be ratified.

But a similar question to Mr Qin got a much different response.

Do you have any idea of when the Chinese Government intends to ratify the prisoner exchange
agreement it has with Australia that would potentially allow Stern Hu to serve his sentence in

QIN GANG (translated): I think the logic you raised in the question is interesting. You're saying
when a foreign criminal is convicted and sentenced to a jail term; the two countries' governments
should start talking about an extradition agreement. I think that's not very logical. I don't know
the status of the negotiations of the agreement. I just wanted to point out that a logic like that
is a bit misleading.

TOM IGGULDEN: While the trial of Stern Hu and his colleagues is over save potential appeals, it's
not the end of Chinese investigations into the stalled iron ore price negotiations that led to the
court cases.

Two executives from Chinese steel mills with whom Rio does business are believed to be under
investigation and more trials could follow.

Mr Qin says any Chinese nationals found guilty of doing the wrong thing will be dealt with
according to Chinese law, just as Mr Hu has been.

This is Tom Iggulden in Beijing reporting for AM.