Page last updated at 07:08 GMT, Saturday, 11 July 2009 08:08 UK

Rio detainee is 'in good health'

Yandicoogina mine, Western Australia
Rio Tinto is a major supplier of minerals to China

The Australian government has said a mining executive detained in China accused of bribery is in "good health".

Australian Stern Hu is one of four Rio Tinto staff arrested on Sunday on suspicion of bribing Chinese officials for information on iron ore talks.

Australia's trade minister, in Shanghai on a pre-arranged trip, said he was seeking talks with Chinese officials.

Simon Crean said he had expressed "strong concern" to the Shanghai city government about the issue.

"We have no information as to what the investigation does involve. We're going on the basis of press reports. The government here is not able to inform us any more," Mr Crean said.

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He said he had emphasised to Chinese officials that the arrest was an important issue in Australia.

Chinese state media says the four Rio Tinto employees are accused of bribing Chinese steel firm bosses to obtain secret information on China's position on iron ore prices.

Mining giant Rio Tinto has expressed surprise and concern about the allegations, saying it is not aware of any evidence that would support them.

Late on Friday, Australian consular officials were given access to Mr Hu for the first time since his arrest.

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said that he appeared well and raised no health or welfare issues.

The four Rio Tinto employees, three of them Chinese nationals, were arrested for allegedly stealing state secrets, an offence that carries a maximum term of life imprisonment.

The Australian government has said it will handle the allegations that an Australian national stole state secrets in China with caution.

The arrest has sparked fears of trade friction between Australia and China.



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