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China urges Australia to respect judicial sovereignty
Updated: 2009-07-22 16:30

BEIJING: A senior Chinese official said Wednesday that espionage charges against staff of Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto would be handled quickly, but urged the Australian side to treat the case "properly" and to respect China's judicial sovereignty.

"The Australian side should look at it as an individual case and treat it properly," said Chinese Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei at a news briefing on the first US-China strategic and economic dialogue to be held in Washington from July 27 to 28.

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"The Rio Tinto case will be handled in accordance with the law, and should not affect the normal trade relationship between China and Australia," said He.

Stern Hu, head of Rio Tinto's Shanghai office, was detained by Chinese authorities in early July along with three other staff on charges of spying and stealing state secrets.

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith and He met on the sidelines of the 15th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Egypt last week and discussed the Rio Tinto case.

"I briefed him on the case and stressed that we have enough evidence to prove the people involved obtained China's state secrets illegally," He said.

China would handle the case quickly, but it required a complete judicial procedure, said He.

Since the arrests of the Rio Tinto staff, Australian opposition politicians have been pressuring Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to do more to help them.

But most Australians believe the government should not intervene in the detention of Rio Tinto's employees, according to a poll released on Monday.

The poll, conducted from July 14 to 19, showed that 63 percent of the 1,070 people surveyed by the Essential Research believe Australia should accept the laws of other countries.