| 16.07,09. 04:17 PM |
Rio exec floored by an iron fist
The Daily Telegraph July 15, 2009 11:14PM
Meeting ... Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and climate change lobbyist Al Gore. Source: No Source
DRAMATIC claims that imprisoned mining executive Stern Hu bribed officials in 16 steel mills further heated growing tensions between Australia and China yesterday.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd warned Beijing that its economic ties with Australia - and other nations - were being put at risk by Mr Hu's still unexplained detention.
And he revealed that the Chinese Government knew that he was following the case personally, while the Australian Embassy in Beijing and the Shanghai consulate had made 20 official inquiries about Mr Hu.
Yesterday the English-language China Daily, which usually conveys the Chinese Government line, claimed Mr Hu had bribed executives at all 16 of China's mills to get information assisting negotiations on iron ore prices by his company Rio Tinto.
China Daily claimed the "sensitive industry information" was used in negotiations with the government-run China Iron and Steel Association.
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Exec detained: Rio 'spy' in bribe claim
China accuses Rio staff
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Rio replied yesterday by repeating an earlier comment that the company was "committed to high standards in business integrity and takes its ethical responsibilities very seriously".
Mr Hu and three Chinese colleagues were jailed without charge on July 5.
Mr Rudd said Mr Hu's fate was the Government's chief concern but, in an indirect warning to Beijing, said that economic interests also were at stake.
"Australia of course has significant economic interests in its relationship with China but I also remind our Chinese friends that China, too, has significant economic interests at stake in its relationship with Australia and with other commercial partners around the world," he said.
"A range of foreign governments and corporations will be watching this case . . . very closely. It is in all our interests to have this matter resolved."
Mr Rudd said the case was complex and "we will not be distracted by glib suggestions that there is some sort of quick fix".
Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull continued to insist that Mr Rudd should call Chinese President Hu Jintao directly on the matter.
He accused Mr Rudd of "treating this as just a low level consular case".
"I think he is sending the message that he's not concerned about the fact that an Australian citizen has been detained now for 10 days without access to lawyers," Mr Turnbull said.
The Hu case developments came as climate campaigner Al Gore met Mr Rudd yesterday in Sydney. The former US vice-president warned that Australia was "in the line of fire" on climate change, to which Mr Rudd replied, "Al's absolutely right."