Tuesday, March 30, 2010, 3/30/2010 03:01:00 PM

Australian Prime Minister Says Chinese "Commercial Secrets" Prosecution Left "Serious Unanswered Questions"

By Todd

The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is complaining about China's procedurally secret criminal trial relating to the alleged "commercial secrets" purportedly stolen by an Australian businessman.

By holding part of an Australian businessman's criminal trial in secret, China has missed an opportunity to prove itself on the world stage, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says.

A Shanghai court yesterday sentenced Rio Tinto mining executive Stern Hu to 10 years behind bars for taking bribes and stealing trade secrets. You can find Rio Tinto's response to the convictions here: http://www.riotinto.com/media/18435_media_releases_19133.asp. Of particular relevance is this statement: "Rio Tinto is unable to comment on the charge regarding obtaining commercial secrets as it has not had the opportunity to consider the evidence. That part of the trial was held in closed court and no details of the case were made public until the verdicts and sentences were announced today."

Hu admitted to the bribery charges but the commercial secrets elements of the trial were heard in secret.

Mr Rudd said that left "serious unanswered questions" about his conviction.

"In holding this part of the trial in secret, China I believe has missed an opportunity to demonstrate to the world at large transparency that would be consistent with its emerging global role," he told reporters in Melbourne today.

"Australia ... has reservations about the manner in which the second charge contained within this particular court case has been handled."

Mr Rudd said the federal government made strong, frequent and high-level representations to Chinese officials on behalf of Hu and would continue to do so.

He expects the bilateral relationship between China and Australia to sustain the pressure of Hu's trial and sentencing.

"We've had disagreements with our friends in Beijing before, I'm sure we'll have disagreements again," Mr Rudd said.

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop questioned the strength of a consular agreement between the two nations, which should have allowed local officials to attend Hu's trial in its entirety.

"If China is able to ignore the agreement in these circumstances, are there other circumstances where the consular agreement will not be adhered to?" she asked on ABC Radio.

"This would be an issue of great concern to many companies from Australia and also around the world."

Ms Bishop accused Mr Rudd of engaging in "megaphone" diplomacy, instead of telephoning Chinese officials to discuss the issue.

Australian Greens leader Bob Brown said the government was scared to push China on the matter because it did not want to damage trade relations between Australia and China.

"Beijing sends a certain fear into the hearts of politicians in Canberra," he said.

"There's no doubt the pressure for trade overcomes the pressure for democracy, human rights and the proper processes under the law."

Three of Hu's Chinese colleagues were also jailed for terms ranging from seven to 14 years.


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