The complicated case of Stern Hu: Allegiance, identity and nationality in a globalised world

Joshua Neoh, Donald R. Rothwell, Kim Rubenstein

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On 5 July 2009 an Australian national of Chinese birth, Stern Hu (‘Hu’), was arrested in Shanghai, China on unspecified charges. A leading executive for the Australian multinational corporation, Rio Tinto, Hu had been directing ongoing Rio Tinto negotiations in China for the sale of Australian-sourced iron ore for many years. At the time of Hu’s arrest considerable mystery surrounded his actions and the nature of the charges that could be brought against him. It was suggested that he may have been engaged in some form of industrial espionage, or stealing state secrets, carrying harsh penalties under Chinese law. Given the good relations between Australia and China, particularly the good feeling the then Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had promoted between the two countries, there was considerable political pressure on the Prime Minister to intervene, seeking the immediate release of Hu on the charges which were widely considered to be spurious. Hu’s arrest raised a number of serious issues for the Australian Government. First, it highlighted Australia’s general bilateral relationship with China, which the Rudd government had sought to heavily promote. Second, it concerned the commercial relationship that had risen to prominence as a result of China’s growth as a major economic power, the export of Australian mineral resources to China to fuel that growth and the prominence of Rio Tinto as part of that process. Third, the case was another in a succession of high profile cases involving the plight of Australian citizens being detained overseas and subject to criminal trials where fundamental human rights issues were at stake. Given China’s human rights record, this was particularly significant in this instance.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAllegiance and Identity in a Globalised World
EditorsFiona Jenkins, Mark Nolan, Kim Rubenstein
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9781139696654
ISBN (Print)9781107074330
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


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