Three Chinese diplomats with ties to Japan were detained, according to a freed Japanese man.

Three Chinese diplomats familiar with Japan have been jailed by Chinese security forces since 2013, according to the former chairman of a Japan-China youth exchange organisation who was imprisoned in China for spying and returned to Japan last month.

According to Hideji Suzuki, who was detained in Beijing in 2016 and served his prison term until October, all three diplomats speak Japanese and have worked in the Chinese Embassy in Japan.

Suzuki said the diplomats had been detained in 2017 in a facility of the national security bureau in Beijing where he was also imprisoned.

It is believed they were suspected of endangering national security by providing information to the Japanese side.

According to Suzuki, the diplomats were a former minister counselor of the Chinese Embassy, a former consul general in Nagoya and a former ambassador to Iceland who had been in charge of Japan issues for a long time.

The former minister counselor and the former ambassador to Iceland are believed to have been detained between the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014 and the former consul general of Nagoya around the end of 2016.

Suzuki said the former minister counselor was an acquaintance of his and they met at the facility while both being held there in 2017, adding that he learned from other prisoners that the two other diplomats were also in the same facility then.

He was charged with spying after allegedly getting information about China-North Korea relations from the former minister counselor in 2013 in Beijing and providing it to a Japanese government official.

Many Japanese citizens and Chinese people familiar with Japan have been held in China since a counterespionage law took effect in 2014.

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