Photo/Illutration A sign of the headquarters of Astellas Pharma Inc. in Tokyo’s Chuo Ward (Eisuke Eguchi)

A Japanese man detained by Chinese authorities in Beijing earlier this month who may be charged with spying is an employee of Astellas Pharma Inc., a major pharmaceutical company.

The Tokyo-based company announced the detainment of the man, who is in his 50s, on March 26.

According to sources with connections to Japanese and Chinese authorities, the man may be suspected of espionage because he was detained by a Chinese organization responsible for national security.

Astellas Pharma said, “We will gather information (about the incident) through the Foreign Ministry.”  

The man had planned to return to Japan this month but he was detained just before his scheduled departure. 

Chinese authorities have detained at least 17 Japanese nationals including the latest case since 2014 on suspicion of involvement in spying or other charges.

The detainments have come amid a Chinese government crackdown on alleged foreign espionage activities in recent years.