CHINA yesterday officially arrested the Ming Pao reporter detained 11 days ago on charges of espionage, claiming he had instructed a clerk at the central bank to steal state banking secrets. Xi Yang, a reporter for the Hong Kong-based Chinese-language daily, is accused of working with ''prime culprit'' Tian Ye, a worker at the People's Bank of China, to spy on secrets, including plans to adjust interest rates. Tian had been arrested earlier. Both Xi, detained by the State Security Bureau in Beijing, and Tian had ''candidly confessed'' to the charges against them, the reports said. It was claimed that they had seriously jeopardised national security. According to Xinhua (the New China News Agency), stolen secrets included plans by the People's Bank for rate changes on bank savings and loans. The pair were also accused of stealing secrets regarding ''decisions the bank intends to adopt when taking part in international gold transactions'', Xinhua said. The report said they had also stolen ''other major financial secrets'', but did not give details. Ming Pao carried reports in July that touched on the trading activities of China in the international gold market, as well as its interest rate policy. One report published on July 28, under the name of another reporter, said China planned to sell an amount of gold and had decided not to further raise interest rates this year. Xinhua said Tian, under Xi's instruction, had spied and illegally provided a large amount of financial secrets to him. State security officials were quoted as saying that the behaviour of Xi and Tian ''was quite different from the normal work of a journalist'' and broke the law. Their activities had already caused serious consequences, it said. Xinhua said Xi was arrested under the instruction of the Beijing Municipal People's Procuratorate, which said concrete evidence was available of a breach of state security law. Ming Pao said neither the company nor Xi's family members in Beijing were informed of the official arrest. Xi was detained on September 27. A Xinhua report on that day said a number of other people were involved in the case. But last night's reports only named Xi and Tian. Xi's detention has been criticised by local and international media groups. It remained unclear last night whether the two would face a court hearing. Xi is the second Hong Kong reporter detained in China on spying allegations. In August, China sentenced a Xinhua editor to life imprisonment and jailed another reporter for six years on charges of selling state secrets to a Hong Kong reporter. In that case, the editor was accused of leaking a copy of a speech by Communist Party chief Jiang Zemin to Leung Wai-man of Hong Kong's Express News a few days before the speech was due to be delivered at a party plenum in October last year. Leung was expelled from China after she signed a confession. Last night, Ming Pao said in a statement that Executive chief editor Paul Cheung Kin-bor would travel to Beijing today to help Xi's family seek legal representation for him. The statement said the newspaper believed Xi was innocent. ''Before the court can examine and try Xi, we believe Xi Yang is innocent . . . we believe that what Xi did was normal work of a journalist,'' it said. ''We hope that if any legal proceeding is to be taken by Chinese authorities, it will be open and fair so as to help clarify the ambiguous situation of news reporting that is confronting many people at home or abroad.'' She is not allowed to return to the mainland for two years.