- Hydro-Quebec is Canada’s largest electricity producer
- Employee accused of stealing trade secrets for China
- The man will appear in court on Tuesday
- Beijing calls on Canada not to politicize the matter
OTTAWA, Nov. 14 (Reuters) – An employee of Canada’s largest electricity producer, Hydro-Quebec, who was involved in research into battery materials has been charged with espionage for allegedly attempting to steal trade secrets to benefit China, Canadian police said Monday.
Sino-Canadian relations have been choppy in recent years, with both sides accusing each other of industrial espionage. Earlier this month, Canada ordered three Chinese companies to divest their investments in Canadian critical minerals, citing national security concerns.
Yuesheng Wang, 35, who worked at the state-owned company as a battery materials researcher, will appear in court on Tuesday in Longueuil, Quebec, police said in a statement.
He faces four charges, including obtaining trade secrets, unauthorized computer use, fraud for obtaining trade secrets, and breach of trust by a government official.
“While employed by Hydro-Quebec, Mr. Wang allegedly obtained trade secrets to benefit the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to the detriment of Canada’s economic interests,” the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said.
Wang, from Candiac in the province of Quebec, is believed to have committed the crimes at the electric utility from February 2018 to October 2022. A special national security unit of the RCMP began an investigation in August, police said.
Wang worked for a Hydro-Quebec research unit dedicated to battery materials development, collaborating with industry players including the US Army Research Laboratory.
He started working there in 2016 and was fired this month, the company said.
“The damage was contained by our internal detection mechanisms,” said Hydro-Quebec spokeswoman Caroline Des Rosiers, who declined to detail what information he allegedly tried to steal.
A lawyer for Wang was not immediately available for comment.
“Wang allegedly used this position to conduct research for a Chinese university and other Chinese research centers. He reportedly published scientific papers and filed patents in collaboration with this foreign actor, rather than Hydro-Quebec,” said an RCMP official. spokesman.
Dominic Roy, senior director of corporate security at Hydro-Quebec, said no organization is immune to such incidents.
“We must therefore remain vigilant and transparent at all times,” he said in a statement.
Police said Hydro-Quebec was cooperating fully with the investigation.
TRUDEAU AND XI
Canada is trying to scale up its own production and processing of critical minerals so that it can produce electric vehicle batteries and battery materials domestically. China is the world’s dominant supplier of EV battery materials.
“The fact that this alleged espionage involved the battery ecosystem only reminds me how careful we have to be,” Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne told reporters.
Tensions between Canada and China have escalated since the detention of Huawei Technologies executive Meng Wanzhou in 2018 over bank fraud allegations for allegedly deceiving HSBC over Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s business dealings in Iran, leading the bank to violate US sanctions.
Beijing’s subsequent arrest of two Canadians on espionage charges. All three were subsequently released.
Canada’s announcement of a new Indo-Pacific strategy to challenge China on human rights issues has also weighed on diplomatic relations. Meanwhile, the countries are working together on climate change and other shared goals.
News of the arrest came as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended a G20 meeting on the Indonesian island of Bali. Chinese President Xi Jinping is also in attendance.
Spokesmen for Trudeau and Secretary of Public Security Marco Mendicino did not immediately comment.
When asked about Wang’s arrest at a regular briefing on Tuesday, Mao Ning, spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, said she was unaware of the situation, adding that “the Canadian side in such matters treat it in accordance with the law and not politicize it.”
Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Steve Scherer, additional reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal, Martin Pollard and Eduardo Baptista in Beijing; edited by Paul Simao, Bill Berkrot and Raissa Kasolowsky
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