China Detains Chinese Employee Involved in Rare Metals at Japan Trading Company

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
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Authorities in China have detained a Chinese national who deals with rare metals at a Japanese nonferrous metals firm, according to Japanese and Chinese sources.

The employee was detained in March, the sources said.

Why the person has been detained is unknown, but there are also reports that another Chinese employee who deals with rare metals at a Chinese company that has business with this Japanese firm was detained at around the same time.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s administration has tightened regulations on rare metals as they are strategic commodities.

In August, China introduced export controls on mineral resources associated with rare metals used in advanced semiconductors, such as gallium and germanium. They cannot be sold overseas without Beijing’s permission.

In July, an anti-espionage law revised to expand its scope was enacted. The detentions uncovered this time possibly are related to suspected leaking of information.

This month, Chinese authorities formally arrested a male Japanese employee working in China for Astellas Pharma Inc. on suspicion of violating the anti-espionage law.

A representative of a Japanese trading company that procures rare metals from a Chinese state-owned company told The Yomiuri Shimbun: “Regulations on trade of rare metals are becoming stricter, and this is probably part of the Chinese authorities’ control. Care must be taken.”