BEIJING – A Chinese professor who specializes in Japanese affairs appears to have been detained by the Chinese government since late July and is being questioned about his activities in Japan, according to Chinese academics and Japanese media reports.
The apparent arrest of Zhu Jianrong, possibly on espionage charges, after he returned to Shanghai from Japan comes as relations between China and Japan have hit their lowest point in decades, and it has sent tremors of fear through the small community of Japan experts in China and other academics.
A group of Chinese scholars in Japan, the Society of Chinese Professors, said Monday that they were almost certain Zhu was being held and was “currently responding to questioning.” The society, which Zhu helped found, described the professor as “very active” in his role as “a bridge between China and Japan.”
The Chinese government declined to confirm the arrest but strongly hinted that he had been taken into custody.
In a statement, the Foreign Ministry said: “Zhu Jianrong is a Chinese citizen. China is a country ruled by law, and will protect the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens. While at the same time, all Chinese citizens should abide by the law.”
There were some suggestions that Zhu met with Chinese military officials this year, and that the Chinese authorities were suspicious of these contacts and his subsequent use of the information.
The disappearance of Zhu would further fracture the “quasi-Cold War relationship” between China and Japan, setting off fears among Chinese academics and visitors to Japan that they could be susceptible to similar treatment, said Willy Lam, adjunct professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Center for Chinese Studies.
A scholar on the diplomacy between China and Japan, Zhu often appeared on Japanese television publicly presenting China’s position on the issues that divided the two countries, academics in both countries said.