A day after it gave consular access to 21 Indians detained for allegedly smuggling diamonds, China said on Thursday that it would protect their "legitimate rights".
The case is still under investigation, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told journalists in Beijing, adding that she believed the legitimate rights and interests of those involved would be guaranteed according to law.
Her remarks were the first public statement by China on the detained Indians who were among 50 people held in the southern city of Shenzhen on smuggling charges. Out of the 50 detained, 33 were foreigners, including 21 Indians.
"Chinese police detained some Indians suspected of smuggling," Jiang said when asked to confirm whether the police in Shenzhen had nabbed 21 Indian diamond traders, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
The detained Indians are suspected of being involved in illegal transportation of diamonds from Hong Kong to Shenzhen, a boom city in south China's Guangdong Province.
"The Indian embassy in China has dispatched officials to see them," Jiang said, without giving the number of detainees or their identities.
According to Indian government, two officials from its missions in China met the detainees one by one.
Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said the people, detained on January 8, are being "apparently well looked after".
The Indian mission is helping them and arranging legal assistance for them, she said.
Meanwhile, commenting on the arrest of three Chinese engineers in India, Jiang said the Chinese foreign ministry and its embassy in New Delhi would actively assist their employer, the Shandong Electric Power Construction Corporation, in dealing with the prosecution and protect the legitimate rights and interests of its citizens.The three were arrested in connection with a chimney collapse that killed more than 40 people at a power plant in Chhattisgarh in September 2009.