Australians Jailed in China
Several Australian citizens doing business or working in China have made the news in recent years for their arrest and criminal convictions. The most prominent cases include:
Matthew Ng (Wu Zhihui)
Businessman Matthew Ng is serving a thirteen-year sentence for fraudulent registration of capital, embezzlement of funds and property and corporate bribery (danwei xinghui 单位行贿). Ng, who was arrested in November 2010, headed Et-China (Yiwangtong 易网通), the majority owner of the national travel agency GTL (Guangzhilü 广之旅). His lawyer, Chen Youxi, argued that Et-China’s local partner in GTL, Lingnan Group 岭南集团, which is backed by the municipal government of Guangzhou, had ordered Ng’s arrest to obtain a controlling interest in GTL on the cheap. The court also handed down prison terms to Et-China’s local executives.
Stern Hu (Hu Shitai)
On 29 March 2010, Shanghai’s First Intermediate People’s Court convicted Stern Hu, an executive for mining giant Rio Tinto, of bribery, and sentenced him to ten years in prison. Three of Hu’s Chinese colleagues — Wang Yong, Ge Minqiang and Liu Caikui — also received sentences. Hu had been detained on 5 July 2009 on suspicion of stealing confidential information from Chinese companies, including detailed industry data, shortly after Rio Tinto rejected a bid from Chinalco Mining Corporation (Zhonglükuangye 中铝矿业) to raise its stake in the company. The trade secrets charges were dropped prior to the trial, and the defendants pleaded guilty to bribery.
Charlotte Chou (Zou Wanling)
Australian entrepreneur Charlotte Chou is serving an eight-year prison sentence in Guangzhou for embezzlement. Chou was the founder and vice-president of the South China Institute of Software Engineering (Guangzhou daxue huaruan ruanjian xueyuan 广州大学华软软件学院) — a private college run in partnership with Guangzhou University (Guangzhou daxue 广州大学). She was first arrested in 2008 and served an eighteen-month sentence for bribery before her second arrest and subsequent conviction on 4 May 2012. Institute chairman Lin Yongping fled the country to escape prosecution. Chou’s supporters allege that cofounder Zhu Hanbang, who succeeded Lin as chairman, was behind Chou’s rearrest.
Police from Tai’an in Shandong province detained Du Zuying – a Melbourne-based heart surgeon and the founder of the blood plasma company China Biologic Products 泰邦生物制品 – at Beijing Capital Airport on 9 February 2011. They failed to notify his family, who spent five or six hours waiting for him at Sydney airport. The Tai’an Intermediate Court handed down a four-year sentence for embezzlement related to 2.4 million yuan he took out of the company in December 2002 and returned a year later. Du appealed the sentence but, as of April 2013, no trial had been held. Du’s lawyer claims that the case is an example of interference in the justice system for the benefit of local capital over foreign investment. A lengthy exposé published by Shanghai’s Oriental Morning Post on 9 April 2013 reported that Du lost control of his company in 2004 when he granted power of attorney to his half-brother, Du Haishan, while fundraising in Australia.
Carl Mather, a fifty-four-year-old Australian who had taught English in Nanjing for a decade, completed a one-year sentence early in May 2013 for assault following a brawl with four men in his apartment that left one with a broken finger and another with an injured hand. He had been arrested in November 2012 and convicted in January 2013. Mather’s wife, Jenny Xie, claimed that he was acting in self-defence, and that the men were intruders who had come in connection with a long-running dispute over money. Mather’s lawyer, Si Weijiang, won an appeal in April 2013 because new evidence showed that one of the men was a professional debt collector hired to put pressure on Mather and his wife.