China Likely to Decide Soon on Arrest of Detained Japanese

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
China’s national flag

Hangzhou, China (Jiji Press)—Chinese authorities are likely to make an official decision soon on whether to arrest a Japanese man held in Beijing in March for allegedly violating the anti-espionage law, sources familiar with relations between Japan and China said Wednesday.

Chinese authorities in mid-September informed the Japanese side that the male employee of Japanese drugmaker Astellas Pharma Inc. has been under criminal detention, the sources said.

The Japanese government has been calling for an early release of the man, but the administration of Chinese President Xi Jinping has not responded to the request.

The senior Astellas employee in his 50s was held by Chinese authorities in March just before his planned return to Japan after his stationing in Beijing.

He was first subjected to “residential surveillance,” being interrogated at hotels and other facilities. China’s criminal procedure code stipulates that residential surveillance should not exceed six months.

The Japanese Embassy in Beijing has been granted consular access to the man six times since April, where he said that he has no particular health problem. In the first three meetings, access was allowed only through video link due to the need to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In China, 17 Japanese, including the Astellas employee, have been detained for allegedly violating the anti-espionage law since it took effect in 2014. Details of the charges for the detained people have not been disclosed.

In July this year, the law was revised to expand the definition of espionage. The definition of acts covered by the law is vague, raising concerns among Japanese nationals in China that the law may be used arbitrarily.