Partly private hearing of Rio Tinto case reasonable: Chinese experts

13:33, March 23, 2010      

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Chinese law experts said it was reasonable for a Shanghai court to reject Australian officials from sitting through the trial of mining giant Rio Tinto's four employees charged with bribery and stealing commercial secrets in China.

The Shanghai No. 1 Intermediate People's Court, which started the three-day trial on Monday, allowed Australian consular officials to observe the part of the trial dealing with the bribery charges, but excluded them from the part about commercial secrets.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said last week that the "world will be watching" the trial, which involves Australian national Stern Hu and three Chinese. They were arrested in July last year.

Lu Zhian, an associate professor at the Law School of Shanghai-based Fudan University, told Xinhua that Australia should respect decisions made at the Chinese court rather than worry about injustice.

"They can refer to the court's hearing records after the trial and appeal if they are unhappy about the verdict," Lu said.

According to the consular agreement between China and Australia, the trial of one country's citizens in the other should be open to its consular officials for observations, but the exercise should comply with local laws and regulations.

China's law stipulates that cases concerning commercial secrets could be tried in private if a concerned party applies to do so.

Yu Jinyuan, a law firm partner in Beijing, said it is an international common practice for countries to privately hear cases involving commercial secrets.

He also said worries about injustice in the case were groundless. "There have been cases in which foreign defendants were acquitted in China due to inadequate proof."

Lu said the contention over the case was just a matter of different views of legal provisions.

"It should not be politicized, let alone be entangled with China's foreign investment environment," he said.

A week ago, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao was asked to comment on some foreign businesses' complaints that China's investment environment was not as friendly as before, after the arrest of the Rio Tinto employees and Internet search giant Google's threat to pull out of the country.

Wen told reporters after the annual parliament session that China welcomed foreign investors to do business in line with Chinese laws.

Source: Xinhua
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