China rejects release of Japan-based scholar

China's foreign ministry has dismissed calls for the release of a Chinese scholar who is being held on suspicion of spying for Japan.

Yuan Keqin, a former professor at the Hokkaido University of Education in Japan, was detained in May 2019, when he was in China for a temporary return home.

His family and fellow researchers say he is innocent and call for his immediate release.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters on Wednesday that Yuan is a Chinese citizen but was long involved in spying at the request of Japan's intelligence agency.

Zhao said Yuan has admitted to committing such a crime and there is hard evidence. The official said Yuan has already been indicted and he is currently on trial.

Zhao said he wants to ask people who maintain Yuan's innocence if they do not know the fact or are just pretending not to know the fact.

He said China is a country ruled by law, and anyone who harms the state security should be punished based on the laws.