China holds Rio Tinto man on spying charges

CHINESE authorities have detained Rio Tinto&rsquo;s top iron ore negotiator on suspicion of espionage and stealing state secrets, the miner which is listed in London and Australia said yesterday.<br /><br />The news comes as China and iron ore producers, including Rio Tinto, are locked in talks regarding annual contract prices, and less than a month after the firm snubbed a $19.5bn (&pound;12.1bn) investment proposal from the state-owned Aluminium Corp of China (Chinalco).<br /><br />But Australian foreign minister Stephen Smith said that there is &ldquo;no basis&rdquo; in any speculation that the two were linked.<br /><br />Australian Stern Hu, the head of Rio&rsquo;s iron ore operations in China, has been detained since 5 July but has not been charged.<br /><br />Three other Rio workers, all Chinese nationals, are also being held. Smith said he was surprised by the detention and that the Australian government was still trying to seek access to Hu.