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Rio trial puts spotlight on China's court system

Four executives from global miner Rio Tinto will stand before a judge in Shanghai today. The three-day trial brings China's judicial system under the international spotlight.

user iconKate Gibbs 22 March 2010 The Bar
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FOUR executives from global miner Rio Tinto will stand before a judge in Shanghai today. The three-day trial brings China’s judicial system under the international spotlight.

Australian Stern Hu is one of four from Rio’s iron ore team facing court today, each detained last year at the height of negotiations over 2009 iron ore prices.

The fraught discussions last year spurred international furore over China’s opaque state secret laws, making the current court proceedings a focal point.


The president of the American Chamber of Commerce, Michael Barbalas, said: “It is critical that this case is carried out transparently,” Business Spectator reported.

China had soured sentiment when it denied the Australian Federal Government its request to give Australian officials access to the entire court proceedings in the trial.

This move was a reminder that much of China’s legal system happens behind closed doors. Foreign media has been barred from the proceedings.

The four Rio Tinto former executives were charged in August with accepting bribes and infringement of commercial secrets.

They had previously been charged with what some media reports labelled “stealing state secrets”. They were accused of purportedly seeking industrial and production information about Chinese mines and steel mills.

As the international eye focuses on the court proceedings, which start today, China has stuck to its own legal deadlines for moving the case forward, from the police and into the court system, as Business Spectator reports today.

Meanwhile, the American Chamber of Commerce today released a survey into US companies’ relationship with China. It reveals that a growing number of companies feel unwelcome there as measures aimed at squeezing foreign technology companies out of the government-procurement market start to bite, the Wall Street Journal reports today.

The survey shows the darkening mood among multinational companies towards one of their most important global markets.

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