Japanese man detained in China's Hunan Province since July

28, Nov. 2019

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TOKYO, KYODO - A Japanese man in his 50s has been detained in the Chinese province of Hunan since July, possibly for alleged spying, a Japanese government source said Wednesday.

Later in the day, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters in Tokyo that the government has confirmed the man's detention by Chinese authorities, with the Foreign Ministry saying he is said to have acted in “violation of domestic law” in China.

The man in question is being held in Changsha and has had access to consular services, the government source said, adding that he is in good health. It is unclear why he got in trouble with Chinese authorities.

In September, a Japanese professor at Hokkaido University in Sapporo was picked up in China on suspicion of espionage, but he was freed earlier this month.

Since 2015, at least 15 Japanese citizens have been detained in China on such charges as espionage, including the man whose case came to light Wednesday. With details of the detentions withheld from the public, some Japanese expatriates in the country have been left worried.

China has been stepping up its scrutiny of foreign organizations and individuals in the name of protecting national security since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2012.

Not only Japanese, but a number of other foreign nationals have been held in China, particularly after a counterespionage law took effect in 2014 and a national security law in 2015.

The latest incident came amid a recent thaw in Sino-Japanese relations long frayed over wartime history and territorial issues.

China and Japan have promoted reciprocal visits by their leaders. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe traveled to Beijing in October last year, while Xi paid a visit to Osaka in June to attend the Group of 20 summit.

The two neighbors have also agreed on a visit by Xi to Japan next spring as a state guest, with Abe inviting the Chinese president to come “when the cherry blossoms bloom.” (Kyodo)