The arrest of four employees of the Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto Ltd. on charges of allegedly illegally obtaining commercial secrets and bribery has exposed some multinationals' lack of legal responsibility.
Liu Renwen, research fellow of the Law Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the case showed that everyone, regardless of nationalities, should abide by the law in China -- even though in the past, some local governments preferentially treated foreign companies in order to attract investment.
Shanghai prosecutors approved the arrest of the four Rio Tinto employees, a statement of China's Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP) said late Tuesday.
Preliminary investigations showed that the four employees, Stern Hu, an Australian citizen of Chinese origin and general manager of the company's Shanghai office in charge of the iron ore business in China, Liu Caikui, Ge Minqiang and Wang Yong, had obtained commercial secrets from China's steel and iron industry through undisclosed improper means, which had violated Article 219 of the country's Criminal Law pertaining to the crime of violating commercial secrets.
Prosecution authorities also found evidence to prove that they were involved in commercial bribery in breach of Article 163 of the Criminal Law about receipt of bribes by personnel other than governmental employees, including staff of companies. Prosecutors did not provide details.
The four were detained in Shanghai in early July on charges of stealing China's state secrets, the Shanghai state security authorities said.
Liu said investigation of the case did not end as prosecution authorities did not bring it to court. Currently, these four people face two charges.