Tokyo police are investigating a 45-year-old first secretary at the Chinese Embassy who may have been spying on important businessmen and politicians but is apparently no longer in the country.
"In general, the police have a major interest in any spying activities by China, and we will severely crack down on any illegal acts," Jin Matsubara, chairman of the National Public Safety Commission, which oversees the National Police Agency, said at a May 29 news conference.
According to investigative sources, the first secretary appears to have temporarily returned to China.
The Metropolitan Police Department went through the Foreign Ministry to ask that the first secretary appear for questioning, but the embassy refused. It is expected to make another request to the Chinese Embassy for the first secretary to appear.
It is rare for Chinese spies to be caught in Japan because they often work within exchange activities between Japan and China. In one case uncovered by the Metropolitan Police Department in January 1976, a Chinese trader came frequently to Japan ostensibly for business, but which actually involved gathering military, political and economic intelligence along with industrial technology.
Police believe the first secretary worked under the direction of the General Staff Headquarters, which operates an intelligence agency for the military, and may have spied on prominent businessmen and politicians.
Police are looking into specific allegations that the first secretary renewed an alien registration card by submitting an application that hid the official's diplomatic status. Sources said the police are considering sending papers to prosecutors against the first secretary on suspicion of violating the Alien Registration Law by submitting a false application.
According to investigative sources, the first secretary was transferred to the Chinese Embassy in 2007. In April 2008, the individual submitted an application to the Katsushika ward office to renew the alien registration card that was first obtained while the individual worked as a researcher at the University of Tokyo.
The individual also opened a bank account in early 2008 while hiding the individual's diplomatic status. A Tokyo health food company deposited 100,000 yen ($1,300) a month into the bank account as an adviser's fee. An affiliated company to the health food company also deposited several hundreds of thousands of yen as remuneration for serving as a company executive.
Police are looking into the possibility that such transactions violate the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which bans diplomats from conducting personal commercial activities. Police will also investigate whether the money was used to fund spying activities.
The secretary graduated from a foreign language school under the People's Liberation Army and is believed to be affiliated with the General Staff Headquarters. Before working in Japan as a diplomat, the individual frequently came to Japan, working as a university researcher as well as a foreign intern at the Matsushita Seikei Juku, an institute of government and management started by Panasonic Corp. founder Konosuke Matsushita.
Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba, a graduate of the Matsushita Seikei Juku, said he could not recall the face or name of the first secretary under suspicion.
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