China-Japan relations

Tokyo denies that Japanese man detained in China was spying

Head of Sino-Japanese exchange organisation failed to return to Japan from Beijing a fortnight ago and has not been answering his mobile phone

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 July, 2016, 3:58pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 February, 2017, 4:55pm

A Japanese man has been detained in Beijing since earlier this month by Chinese authorities, the Japanese government said on Thursday.

Responding to reports that the man, who has not been named, may have been involved in spying, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Japan “is not engaged in such activities toward any country”.

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The government is assisting the man through its embassy in Beijing, and working to confirm the circumstances of his detention, Suga, whose position makes him the top government spokesman, told a press conference.

The man, who heads an organisation to promote exchanges between Japan and China, was due to stay in Beijing from July 11-15, but did not return to Japan and had not been answering his mobile phone, according to sources close to the Japanese government.

The man, in his late 50s, comes from Ibaraki Prefecture and has a history of involvement with the Social Democratic Party, a minor opposition party, the sources said.

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Suga said there have been no reported issues with the man’s health, but declined to give further details about him.

In a written reply, the Japanese embassy in Beijing would only confirm that a Japanese citizen had been taken away.

“This month, we received a notice from the Chinese side that a Japanese citizen had been taken into custody by the Chinese authorities.”

Four Japanese were arrested last year for alleged spying activities, one of whom has since been indicted.

China has been stepping up its surveillance of foreign organisations and individuals under the leadership of President Xi Jinping.

Additional reporting by Zhuang Pinghui