China’s courts are under international scrutiny as four employees of global mining giant Rio Tinto go on trial, accused of bribery and stealing secrets.
The hearing has opened in Shanghai with three Chinese nationals and an Australian in the dock.
Canberra is monitoring the fate of its citizen, Stern Hu, particularly closely. He and two others are said to have admitted taking bribes. Foreign reporters have not been allowed in.
Australia is also concerned because its diplomats have been barred from part of the proceedings.
The country’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd repeated that the case would be monitored.
“I will say it once again very clearly. China has a different legal system to Australia. China has a different legal system to the rest of the world. The world will be watching closely how this trial is handled,” he said.
The four workers are accused of purportedly seeking industrial and production information about Chinese mines and steel mills.
Rio Tinto has insisted they did nothing wrong. It is eager however to improve ties with China, stressing its commitment to keep working with the key Asian customer.