16 Apr 2010

Rio accused of abandoning executive in China

10:50 am on 16 April 2010

Rio Tinto shareholders have accused Rio Tinto of abandoning executive Stern Hu, after he was sentenced to 10 years in a Chinese prison.

Shareholders at the annual meeting in London accused the giant mining company of being so in awe of China that it was prepared to sacrifice Hu and his three Chinese colleagues to harsh jail terms.

But chairman Jan Du Plessis said that assessment was wrong.

Mr Du Plessis said there had been a thorough, independent and forensic investigation of the China operation, which uncovered no evidence of wrongdoing, but that the company accepted the Chinese court's decision.

The ABC reports Hu was sentenced late last month to 10 years in prison for corruption and industrial espionage.

Three Chinese colleagues were given jail terms of between seven and 14 years.

They were convicted of accepting bribes totalling about $A14 million and stealing trade secrets.