BEIJING -- A Japanese male employee of general trader Itochu has been held in detention by China's counterintelligence ministry in Guangzhou for about a year, an informed source said Thursday.
It is unusual for an employee of a large Japanese trading company to be held for a long period in China.
The Japanese man was detained in February last year. The Ministry of State Security, responsible for cracking down on spy activities by foreign nationals, is believed to have detained him potentially on suspicion of acts that undermine national security. A separate source said he may have already been indicted.
The ministry has detained a number of Japanese since 2015, of whom eight remain in detention. Of the eight, all four detained in 2015 were sentenced without suspension to prison terms by December 2018 in first trials, including one sentenced to 12 years.
An Itochu insider acknowledged the detention of its employee, saying, "We can't deny that an employee is in detention."
Itochu has been actively pursuing expansion of its Chinese business, which led it to acquire a stake in Citic. About 1,000, or 30%, of Itochu's career-track employees have passed a Chinese language efficiency test. Uichiro Niwa, a former chairman of the company, served as Japanese ambassador to China from 2010 to 2012.