Mainland police have detained a senior Chinese manager working for Shell's Beijing Office for allegedly obtaining state secrets. 'Xiu Yichun, a member of staff of our Beijing office was detained by Beijing police some weeks ago,' said Jeremy Fermson, spokesman for Shell's Hong Kong office. The company had not officially been informed of the reason for the detention, he said. Company sources said Xiu, who liaised between Shell China and the Government on plans for the Nanhai refinery, had been charged with obtaining state secrets relating to the refinery's approval. The upcoming issue of the Far Eastern Economic Review quotes sources as saying that Xiu and a 'senior official' from China National Offshores Oil Corp were detained after a meeting between Shell executives and Ye Qing, a vice-minister of the State Planning commission, in early February. Asked whether Xiu would be put on trial and if any legal help had been given to her, Mr Fermson said it was sensitive to comment on that at the moment. He emphasised that the company had expressed concern through various channels to Chinese authorities. However he declined to comment on the progress of talks. 'Neither her family nor the company has been allowed access to her since she was detained,' Mr Fermson said. The case has raised serious concerns among foreign oil firms in the capital over the role their local employees can be expected to play in their company operations. 'This obviously raises some very serious questions about the role we can expect local managers and employees to play in sourcing sensitive information,' said an expatriate manager at a Western oil company in Beijing. 'The definition of a state secret here is very vague and so we are definitely going to have to rethink our strategy in this regard,' he said. Locally hired managers face much stiffer penalties - up to 15 years in prison for obtaining state secrets. An expatriate staff member would at worst be expelled from the country. 'The trend among foreign companies in Beijing has been towards localisation of managerial staff but this incident could cause many companies to change their approach, particularly if they are involved in the sensitive area of government approvals and policy,' said an investment consultant in Beijing.