A Japanese man detained in Beijing since earlier this month for allegedly violating Chinese law is an employee of Astellas Pharma Inc., a spokesperson for the Japanese drugmaker confirmed Sunday.

The Japanese government has been seeking the release of the man, in his 50s, as soon as possible. He may be facing spying allegations.

"It is correct that one of our company employees has been detained," a spokesperson of Astellas, headquartered in Tokyo, said.

But the official refrained from releasing the man's position, age and the circumstances behind his detention for privacy reasons and also because "there are many things we do not know."

"We will continue gathering information through the Foreign Ministry," the official said.

China has been stepping up its scrutiny of foreign organizations and individuals in the name of protecting national security, with a number of foreign nationals held after introducing a counterespionage law in 2014 and a national security law in 2015.

Since 2015, at least 16 Japanese nationals, excluding the latest case, have been detained for their alleged involvement in espionage activities.