The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Thursday said the three Chinese citizens who were arrested on Monday and suspected of spying were tourists who had crossed over into Indian territory from Nepal by mistake.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said reports which claimed the three Chinese, including a woman, had spied on border installations were “groundless”. He also denied claims they were involved in money-laundering activities. An Indian PAN card was found on one of those arrested.

“Recently, some Chinese tourists were on holiday on the Nepal-India border, and mistakenly entered India and were detained by Indian police,” Mr. Hong said. “The Chinese Embassy in India is finding out more information from the Indian police, and has urged the Indian side to properly handle the issue.”

The Chinese, identified as Liao Xing, Yu Dangli and Yang Liu, were arrested in Uttar Pradesh. Police officials said they were found without travel documents, and booked under the Passport Act. They were reported as having crossed over the border from Nepal. Media reports said they were staying at a hotel in Nepalgunj.

Reports said the three were employees of Huawei, the telecommunications giant which only last month announced it would invest $2 billion in India over the next five years. Last year, the company, which is a major supplier of telecom equipment for Indian firms, was under the Home Ministry's scanner for security reasons.

Huawei is investing in building a manufacturing facility at Sriperumbudur, near Chennai — part of a wider effort to allay concerns about its equipment.