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August 13, 2009

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China pledges fair ruling on Rio case

CHINA yesterday rebuffed Australia's concerns over the handling of the case involving four employees of the Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto who were formally arrested on charges of infringing trade secrets and bribery.

According to a statement China's top prosecutors office released on Tuesday night, the allegation was downgraded from charges of stealing state secrets from China's steel industry as alleged when the four were detained in Shanghai.

Investigations showed the four, including Stern Hu, an Australian citizen who headed Rio Tinto's iron ore business in China, obtained commercial secrets about China's steel and iron industries through "improper means" and were involved in bribery,

The Australian side has expressed concern over the case and worries that Hu, who was born in China, may not receive a fair trial.

"We believe Chinese judicial organs will make a fair ruling on the case based on the facts and in accordance with law. There is no question about that," Commerce Vice Minister Fu Ziying told a news conference yesterday.

Fu said the case was an isolated incident that reflects the government's determination to create a competitive, open and fair market environment in China.

He added it should not affect relations with Australia.

Rio Tinto said yesterday that it still believes its Shanghai employees acted properly and ethically in their business dealings in China despite their arrests.

Rio Tinto is working to resolve the matter and is continuing its business operations in China, including the maintenance of high levels of iron ore shipments from Australia, the company said.


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