China has detained four employees of iron ore miner Rio Tinto, accusing them of spying:
Reuters: China backed down on iron ore prices, signing up to the same 33 per cent price cut agreed by Asian rivals but only for a six-month period rather than a full year, the China Business News said on Wednesday, citing informed sources it did not name.
The deal, which could not be immediately confirmed, would conclude some nine months of tense negotiations that threatened to scupper the decades-old annual pricing ritual, and which took an unexpected turn this week when four Rio Tinto employees in Shanghai were detained by Chinese authorities.
The four, including Stern Hu, an Australian citizen and the head of iron ore marketing in China, were part of Rio Tinto’s iron ore sales team, an industry source said.
Why is this odd? It comes not long after Rio scuppered a major deal between it and Chinese state-owned firm Chinalco:
Deal Journal: China’s mainstream publications and Internet bulletin boards, often at odds, spoke with one voice on the scrapping of the Rio Tinto-Chinalco deal. The message: that Australia’s government was holding China back while insisting that the aluminium Corp. of China, Chinalco’s official name, shouldn’t make any further compromises to revive the deal.
The state-owned newspaper Time Weekly of China, of Guangzhou, bemoaned that the deal had “evolved into a political event.” It told of how Chinese had renamed two Australian senators, Nick Xenophon and Barnaby Joyce, who had gone on local television urging the “Australian government to prevent China government from taking over its resources.” The new monikers? Nick Xenophobe and Ban-a-Buy Joyce, the article said.
Obviously some wonder if this payback for Australia thwarting China’s lust for more natural resources.
Certainly in Australia that seems to be the fear.
ABC News Australia reports: The Australian Embassy in Beijing is still seeking urgent consular access to Mr Stern Hu, who was arrested in Shanghai on Sunday, along with three other Rio Tinto workers.
The Department of Foreign Affairs will not comment on the identity of the Australian man involved, nor the reason the workers have been in detention for three days.
Nationals’ leader in the Senate Barnaby Joyce says he believes the failure of the state-owned Chinalco to buy an 18 per cent stake in Rio Tinto could be behind the arrest.
“We know that they’re [being] held by an arm of the Chinese Government. The reason for them being held, we don’t know,” Senator Joyce said.
“We know that we’re failing to get proper diplomatic access to them, to Mr Stern Hu, and what we can deduct is that there’d have to be a relationship between Chinalco’s failure in its purchase of Rio and the ramifications that go beyond a state-owned enterprise all the way to the Chinese Government.
“That all these state-owned enterprises and the Chinese Government itself or the Communist People’s Republic government is one as the same, and ramifications to one is ramifications to all.”
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