Lonely Cry for Action as China Locks Up Japanese Citizens on Spy Charges


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On these visits, he became close friends with many Chinese academics and top officials, even meeting Li Keqiang, the former premier, twice, he said. He went on to teach university courses about China and translate books about the normalization of ties between Japan and China after World War II.

But as China’s wariness of foreigners grew, those relationships and credentials made him an object of suspicion, he said. He believes he was targeted as part of the Chinese government’s growing efforts to control academic studies of China, a push that has also led to the arrests of nearly 20 Chinese professors returning from work at Japanese universities.

Mr. Suzuki was preparing to fly home from Beijing when men in plain clothes threw him into a van, he said. He was held in informal detention and interrogated for seven months. During that time, the lights in his room were never turned off, even when he was sleeping, and his jailers let him see the sun only once, for just 15 minutes, he said.

When Mr. Suzuki was finally put on trial, the proceedings were closed and took just two days: one to read the charges and another to render his sentence. He was granted one appeal, which was rejected.

Mr. Suzuki insists that he is innocent. At the dinner party where he tried to discuss North Korea, he said, he simply asked how the country was doing. The Chinese academic’s response was noncommittal.

Conditions in Chinese prisons are harsh. Some Japanese detainees have lost teeth because of a lack of dental care. One died of unknown causes while incarcerated, according to the Japanese foreign ministry.

Japanese consular officers came to visit Mr. Suzuki once a month. But they offered little support, he said. When he asked one of the diplomats to make his case public, he said, he got a scolding: “They asked me, ‘Do you want to be any more famous than you already are?’”


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