Japan police inspect body after Chinese academic disappears

TOKYO (AFP) - Japanese police were Thursday probing the death of a man believed to be a Chinese academic who told his wife he was in danger shortly before he disappeared.

Chi Rui, a lecturer at China's Northeast Normal University, has been missing since May 16, a few days after arriving in Japan.

The 37-year-old telephoned his wife to say he believed someone was eavesdropping on him and following him, and that he was in danger, an official with Kansai International Airport police told AFP.

The academic asked his wife to contact the Chinese embassy in Japan, the official said.

On Wednesday the body of a man was found by a construction worker in the sea near a pier at the airport in western Japan.

"Although we have not officially determined that the body was this Chinese person, we discovered a backpack near the sea which contained materials that suggest the body's identity," the police official said.

"Then we discovered the fact that Chi was missing... and that his wife had received a call from him right before his disappearance," he said.

"We are investigating to determine whether this death is the result of an accident or a crime," the official added.

In March, a Japan-based Chinese academic went missing on a visit to China. That came after the release by Chinese authorities of another academic who disappeared while visiting his home country in July last year amid espionage claims.