Japanese Ambassador to China Hideo Tarumi met for the first time on Tuesday with a senior Astellas Pharma Inc. employee who was formally arrested by Beijing authorities last month on suspicion of espionage, a Japanese government official said.

The man in his 50s, who has been detained since March, has no health issues, the official added. The meeting took place just before Tarumi is set to finish his tenure in China, with Japanese Ambassador to Indonesia Kenji Kanasugi slated to replace him next month.

Hideo Tarumi. (Kyodo)

This was the eighth instance of access granted to the man, with only Japanese embassy staff having been allowed to see him before Tarumi's first meeting.

The Japanese government has repeatedly urged Beijing to release the businessman as soon as possible and has been providing support to him and his family. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida reiterated his call for the man's release during a summit meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in San Francisco earlier this month.

The man, who formerly served as a senior official of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry in China, was detained just before his scheduled return to Japan. The details of how he may have violated the counterespionage law and criminal code in China remain unknown.

Since China's counterespionage law first came into force in November 2014, 17 Japanese citizens, including the Astellas employee, have been detained for alleged involvement in spying activities. Five remain in custody, according to the Japanese government.

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