China’s ambassador to Iceland has been allegedly detained for leaking secrets to Japan

Chinese ambassador to Iceland Ma Jisheng and his wife, Zhong Yue, have been arrested (link in Chinese) by Beijing on suspicion of leaking national security secrets to Japan, according to a Chinese-language media report.

The report hasn’t been confirmed by Chinese officials, who declined to answer questions from reporters about the ambassador’s whereabouts. Asked to confirm news of the arrest—first reported by the overseas Chinese outlet MingJing News, citing anonymous Chinese officials—China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said, “I have no information on this.”

Already, links to headlines and articles about Ma’s arrest have begun to be scrubbed from the internet, and a link to the Ma’s biography on the Chinese Iceland embassy’s website now turns up blank.

Ma, who served as secretary in China’s embassy in Japan (link in Chinese) in the mid 1990s and again as commissar in Toyko between 2004 and 2008, has espoused the typical Chinese criticism of Japan. In February, he penned an editorial (link in Chinese and Icelandic) in an Icelandic newspaper criticizing the visit to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine by Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe.

The Icelandic news site Grapevine reported earlier this month that Ma left the country in January—before the editorial was written—and has not been heard from since. A spokeswoman for the Icelandic government said it had been notified that “Ma would not return to his post for personal reasons,” Reuters reported.

China and Iceland have had increasingly friendly diplomatic relations in recent years. The countries signed a free-trade pact in 2013, though a bizarre plan by a Chinese entrepreneur to build an Icelandic golf resort did not come to fruition.

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