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Chinese diplomat leaves Japan amid espionage suspicions

May 29, 2012 |  9:18 am

BEIJING — A senior diplomat from the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo has left Japan amid an investigation into suspicions of espionage and other illegal activities for the past five years, the Kyodo news agency reported Tuesday.

Tokyo's Metropolitan Police Department believes that the diplomat, whose was first secretary of the embassy, was improperly approaching “key figures in Japan’s political and business circles since he was given the post in charge of economic issues at the embassy” in summer 2007, the news service reported.

The Japanese-speaking diplomat worked for an intelligence unit of China’s People’s Liberation Army, the report said.

In mid-May, police requested through Japan’s Foreign Ministry that the diplomat turn himself in for questioning. But the Chinese Embassy rejected the request and the diplomat returned to China, the news agency said.

There was no immediate comment from the Chinese Foreign Ministry. The English-language Japan Times quoted Yang Yu, a counselor of the embassy, saying, “Reports by some mass media that [the diplomat] engaged in spying activities are totally groundless, have no basis in fact and are outrageous.”

The news report did not name the diplomat. However, the Contemporary Asian Economy Research Institute, a think tank in Tokyo where he also had held a research position, identified him as Li Chunguang, 45.

"We’ve been getting a lot of calls today, but I don’t know him personally," said Shi Huichao, a manager of the institute. “I don’t really know him personally.”

Diplomatic relations between Japan and China were already icy due to a recent visit to Tokyo by Rebiya Kadeer, a leader of China's ethnic minority Uighers. China considers Kadeer a separatist.


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— Barbara Demick. Tommy Yang of The Times' Beijing bureau contributed.