Police are investigating a Chinese diplomat suspected of conducting espionage and unlawful commercial activities during his stint in Tokyo, investigative sources said Tuesday.
The police in mid-May asked the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo via the Foreign Ministry for the diplomat to turn himself in for questioning over activities considered in violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, the sources said, without naming the suspect.
But the embassy turned down the request and the 45-year-old first secretary, who was from an intelligence unit of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, returned to China, according to the sources.
The Metropolitan Police Department believes the man was engaged in spying. For many years, the department’s public security section secretly monitored the diplomat after he approached many key figures in political and business circles following his assignment in summer 2007 as the official in charge of economic issues at the embassy, the sources said.
“Reports by some mass media that (the diplomat in question) engaged in spying activities are totally groundless, have no basis in fact and are outrageous,” said Yang Yu, counselor of the Chinese Embassy.
Yang said the first secretary left Japan because of “the expiration of his term in office.”
On the diplomat’s background, Yang said he was a scholar at the Institute of Japanese Studies in China before his assignment in Japan but did not respond to a question regarding whether he was connected to a PLA intelligence unit.
For about six months starting in April 1999, the secretary attended the Matsushita Institute of Government and Management, where many politicians, including Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba, have been students.
Genba told reporters he doesn’t know the official and cannot comment on the case amid the ongoing police probe.
The police alleged the Chinese secretary illegally obtained an alien registration card by submitting false personal information to Katsushika Ward, Tokyo, around April 2008.
In addition to providing the ward office with a false home address, the diplomat passed himself off as a researcher at the University of Tokyo, the police said, adding he used the foreign resident registration card to open a bank account.
The police said about ¥100,000 in “advisory” fees were paid into the bank account every month from a company in Tokyo that had planned to tap into the Chinese market.
The first secretary obtained a bachelor’s degree in Japanese language from Henan University in June 1989, according to the Contemporary Economic Research Institute in Tokyo, where he was a scholar.
In the 1990s, the secretary served as a member of the Japan-China friendship association in Fukushima Prefecture and received a master’s degree in local administration from Fukushima University in 1997.
According to Teruyuki Yamashita, a member of a nonprofit group promoting China-Japan friendship in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, the diplomat was very fluent in Japanese.
“He really understood the hearts of Japanese people. He was much easier to talk to than other diplomats (from the Chinese Embassy),” Yamashita said.
A senior official from the Contemporary Asian Economy Research Institute said he didn’t know the diplomat was from a Chinese intelligence unit.