BEIJING – Chinese authorities may be holding a former minister-counselor at the embassy in Tokyo on suspicion of leaking information to Japan, informed sources said Thursday.
The 54-year-old former embassy official has not been heard from for a while, the Chinese sources said, adding he appears to be under investigation.
According to the sources, the man used to belong to the Communist Youth League of China, of which both former President Hu Jintao and current Premier Li Keqiang served as head. He later took up the post of deputy head of the secretariat at the All-China Youth Federation.
As a senior member of the Chinese Embassy, he started meeting ranking Diet members from the Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito and other parties in 2010, and developed a wide range of contacts in the Japanese political world.
After returning home last October, he joined the Communist Party of China’s Central Party School for leadership training but has been unaccounted for since spring.
While in Japan, he “dined with lawmakers almost every day,” said a Japanese source. Another source said the man was “trying to establish contacts deep in the administration of (Prime Minister Shinzo) Abe.”
The investigating authorities are believed to be looking into whether there were any shady relations between the diplomat and politicians and other people he met in Japan, at a time when relations between the two countries are in tatters due to thorny issues over history and control of the Senkaku Islands.
Chinese authorities arrested a former vice head of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ Institute of Japanese Studies in 2009 on suspicion of leaking Chinese state secrets. He was later convicted.
In July last year, the Chinese government detained Zhu Jianrong, a professor at Toyo Gakuen University in Tokyo, soon after he arrived in Shanghai and did not release him until January.