Aus warns China on mining case

2010-03-18 15:01

Sydney - Australia's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on Thursday warned China that the "world will be watching" next week's trial of a Rio Tinto mining executive, as officials urged Beijing to let them attend.

Rudd's comments are likely to increase pressure on China over the highly sensitive trial of Stern Hu and three Chinese colleagues, which will take place largely behind closed doors in Shanghai on Monday.

"The world will be watching how this particular court case is conducted," he told reporters.

Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard expressed disappointment that much of the trial, which centres on alleged bribery and industrial espionage during failed iron ore negotiations, would be closed.

"We are obviously very disappointed that that court will not be conducted in an open fashion and representations are being made to the Chinese government about that matter," she said.

Hu, an Australian citizen, was arrested along with colleagues Wang Yong, Ge Minqiang and Liu Caikui in Shanghai in July during high-stakes and ultimately unsuccessful negotiations to set annual iron ore prices.

The arrests, just weeks after Rio snubbed a major cash injection from a state-owned Chinese firm, badly tarnished Australia's ties with its biggest trading partner and sent shivers through China's foreign business community.