Japanese man detained in China is employee of drugmaker Astellas

A Japanese man detained in Beijing since earlier this month for allegedly violating Chinese law is an employee of Astellas Pharma Inc., a spokesperson for the Japanese drugmaker confirmed Sunday.

The Japanese government has been seeking the release of the man, in his 50s, as soon as possible. He may be facing spying allegations.

A source familiar with the matter said the man was held by Chinese authorities just before his planned return to Japan this month.

“It is correct that one of our company employees has been detained,” the spokesperson of Astellas, headquartered in Tokyo, told Kyodo News.

But the official refrained from releasing the man’s position, age and the circumstances behind his detention for privacy reasons and also because “there are many things we do not know.”

“We will continue gathering information through the Foreign Ministry,” the official said.

China has been stepping up its scrutiny of foreign organizations and individuals in the name of protecting national security, with a number of nationalities held after introducing a counterespionage law in 2014 and a national security law in 2015.

Since 2015, at least 16 Japanese nationals, excluding the most recent case, have been detained for their alleged involvement in espionage activities.

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