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Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2003

Osaka movers, shakers fear orgy hurt China ties


Staff writer

OSAKA -- Osaka business and government leaders voiced concern Monday about relations with China in the immediate future due to the uproar over a September orgy involving visiting employees of an Osaka-based firm and Beijing's demand that three of them who allegedly organized the prostitution spree be handed over.

Senior officials of the Osaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry plan to visit Shanghai from Jan. 8 through 12 to discuss mutual investment opportunities.

But some are questioning the timing of the trip, given that last week Chinese prosecutors submitted arrest warrants via Interpol for three employees of Kooki Corp., the Osaka firm allegedly involved in the September orgy. Chinese media have identified the three as Isao Hirobe, Shunji Takahashi and Koji Fukunaga.

A Chinese court, after a two-day trial, sentenced two Chinese to life in prison over the incident and several others to terms of up to 15 years.

"The trip is still on," said Kenji Nishida, a spokesman for the chamber's international division. "But some members of the delegation are wondering if it's a good idea to go at this particular time, and that's something that the chamber needs to discuss."

Nishida added that Kooki is not an OCCI member and the chamber had no official position on the incident, in which hundreds of male Japanese employees and Chinese prostitutes allegedly had a huge orgy at a hotel in the city of Zhuhai.

"What Kooki did was out of line and beyond common sense," Nishida said. "But (even if Kooki was a member), the OCCI doesn't try to lecture its members on what should be common sense."

However, he added that some member firms have issued instructions to employees who travel to China to be sensitive about the incident.

At a seminar Monday that dealt with Chinese investment, no mention was made of the incident. But afterward, some participants acknowledged it was on their minds.

"We're telling our employees to be careful when they are in China, especially when it comes to going out for an evening's entertainment, and don't do anything stupid," said an executive for an Osaka-based trading company that does business in Shanghai.

Osaka prefectural officials said they have had no contact with Kooki over the incident and do not plan to get involved.

"We view this as a matter between the central governments of both countries," said Shigeki Onishi of the prefecture's international department.

A Kooki spokeswoman said no company officials were immediately available for comment.



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