A Chinese appeals court on Monday upheld the convictions of three Chinese citizens convicted in March [JURIST report] of receiving bribes and stealing commercial secrets while employed by Australian mining company Rio Tinto [corporate website]. The men, Wang Yong, Ge Minqiang, and Liu Caikui, were sentenced to between seven and 14 years in prison for accepting around USD $13.5 million in bribes and using "improper means" to gain secret commercial information that gave the company an advantage when bargaining with China over the importation of steel. The Shanghai Higher People's Court affirmed [Xinhua report] the lower court's findings, holding that the procedures followed were proper and the convictions and sentences appropriate. A fourth man, Australian national Stern Hu, was also convicted of the same charges as his Chinese colleagues, but he chose not to appeal. In addition to serving prison time, the court indicated the men will be expected to turn over any money that was received illegally.
The men were initially accused last July [JURIST report] of stealing state secrets [JURIST news archive] during stalled iron ore price negotiations. China's state secrets law has frequently been criticized for the breadth of action which falls under the doctrine. Last month, the Chinese government revised [JURIST report] its sweeping state secrets law to require Internet and telecommunications companies to inform on customers who share state secrets. In November 2009, rights activist Huang Qi was sentenced to three years in prison [JURIST report] for violating the state secrets law when he discussed how some schools collapsed after the Sichuan province earthquake [BBC backgrounder] in 2008 because of shoddy construction. In June 2007, Human Rights in China [advocacy website] said that the state secrets system in China gives the government virtually complete power to halt the free flow of information [JURIST report], "undermining healthy governance and rule of law."