The Chinese propaganda machine goes out of its way to make a point, especially during sensitive cases such as the major brawl involving claims of corrupt activity involving Rio Tinto steel and its iron ore executives in China, one of whom is Australian citizen Stern Hu.

Yesterday we saw two reports pop up on key Chinese Government controlled media websites, Xinhua news agency and the China Daily newspaper. The juxtaposition might have been accidental, but in a country where the media is an arm of Government (as are business and the banks), that’s a big stretch.

Look at a strategically placed court report on the Xinhua news website to make a big point.

“The former chairman of the China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (Sinopec Corp.) Chen Tonghai was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve for taking huge bribes by the Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court Wednesday.

“All his political rights were deprived for life and all his personal property confiscated, according to the court.”

“The court said, Chen took about 195.73 million Yuan (28.66 million U.S. dollars) in bribes from 1999 to June 2007 taking advantage of his positions as deputy general manger of the China Petrochemical Corporation (Sinopec Group), general manager of the Sinopec Group, deputy chairman of the Sinopec Corp. and chairman of the Sinopec Corp.

“In return, he helped others seek illegal interests in enterprises operation, land transfers and project contracts, according to the court.

“Given that Chen had confessed and turned in all the bribes he had taken, admitted his crimes and provided clues on others’ crimes, the court sentenced him to death with a two-year reprieve according to law, according to court sources.

61-year-old Chen Tonghai held a rank equivalent to a cabinet minister before he was abruptly removed from the helm of the state-owned refiner two years ago. He was considered to be a high flier until he fell.”

The message here is that even high fliers can fall and be punished if caught, but if they co-operate with the state, the state will be lenient (life in prison, lenient? Not even Bondy got that).

We have no way of knowing when this sentence was actually announced, it could have been yesterday, a week ago or two months ago.

And then there was a very well informed story on the China Daily website, telling us what Stern Hu and the Rio officials did, not what they were alleged to have done:

“Executives from all 16 Chinese steel mills participating in iron ore price talks this year have been bribed by Rio Tinto employees, an industry insider claimed Tuesday, amid reports that the government is considering invalidating 20 iron ore import licenses to regulate the chaotic ore import business.

“The startling claim comes amid a widening probe of alleged business espionage linked to the world’s second-largest iron ore miner, Rio Tinto.

“Executives from five leading domestic steel makers and officials from the industry association are reportedly under investigation following last week’s detention of four employees of Rio Tinto’s China operation, including an Australian.”

Sounds like a briefing was handed out from State Security central.

And this:

“Rio Tinto got to know the key executives of the 16 steel mills, who have sensitive industry information, when the China Iron and Steel Association (CISA) brought them to the bargaining table,” said a senior manager at a large steel company, who requested anonymity.

“And then Rio Tinto bribed them (to get access to industry data), which has become an unwritten industry practice,” the source said.

“If companies didn’t accept, they would have cut supplies and so the whole steel industry has been bribed.”

Even if Rio Tinto did this, we have no way of verifying it. Rio has no way of refuting this because it is being convicted before the fact in China and in the minds of Chinese. The tactic of tell the lie repeatedly until it’s believed is from Communist Party central and it will work in China.

Reading these reports, and from the way they appear on websites the Chinese know western media monitor regularly, is to leave no doubt that Mr Hu and Rio Tinto will be convicted one way or another.