Chinese industrial espionage | Canada does not protect its technology secrets, experts regret

New revelations from the Canadian Space Agency, which kept an employee for years suspected of being a spy in China’s wages, shows that Canada’s space program is important to foreign powers and that Canadian technology secrets should be better protected than before, experts say.

Posted at 5:00 am

Vincent Laroche

Vincent Laroche
Journalism

“There was laxity in the past, and we didn’t think it was a significant process,” says Guy Saint-Jacques, a former Canadian ambassador to China, of Chinese industrial spying on Canadian soil, in all high-tech sectors.

Based on court documents filed in court, Journalism On Monday, she reported the underside of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) investigation of Wanping Zheng, a former space agency scientist who was arrested last December for breach of trust.

Mr. Zeng is awaiting trial, and the police’s allegations have not been examined in court. But the authorities’ theory is that the official was using his strategic position to help a Chinese space exploration company that plans to create a ‘constellation’ of about 100 highly complex observation satellites in partnership with a state-owned company from China. Government. A case of ‘foreign interference’ in Canada’s federal apparatus, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The documents he obtained Journalism It showed that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) had had time to warn the agency four times of its “concerns” about Mr Zing before the employer finally launched an internal investigation, three years after the original warning.

Intrusions and thefts

The file brings back memories of Guy Saint-Jacques, who often tried to persuade Canadian researchers to better protect their secrets against attempts at theft or interference by agents of the Chinese government, when he was working in Beijing.

Image from a YOUTUBE video

Wanping Zheng at a conference as a leader of China’s Spacety

Our intelligence services know this. We had all kinds of examples of hacks and technology theft. When I was an ambassador, I asked researchers how to protect their intellectual property. Send me some packing! They said: We share knowledge. Well … but in some cases there are military applications, and the red lights should be on,” the former diplomat explains.

He adds that the field of space exploration is no exception to this phenomenon.

“There have always been space technologies that have been secret, like Canadaarm, because there is commercial value attached to that. There has been awareness in recent years, because we have realized that China is using all means to acquire certain technologies,” says Mr. Saint-Jacques.

Military repercussions

“It is great that Canada is open about its research and sharing it with scientists around the world, for the good of humanity. But sometimes there are military repercussions. Satellite communications relay stations, for example, have direct military implications. They can be used for spying. or military applications,” adds Charles Burton, a former employee of the Canadian Embassy in China and the Canadian Communications Security Corporation, who is now a senior research fellow at the MacDonald Laurier Institute.

Too often, Burton believes, research exchange partnerships with institutions linked to the Chinese state will prove to be “one-sided”.

The Chinese system will not apply reciprocity. They will not participate in their work and we will not benefit from it. “It will be a one-way transition,” he said.

antecedents

The Wanping Zheng case is not the first in which the CSA has found itself embroiled in investigations into China’s actions and threats to the national security of Canada and its partners.

In 2015, the Chinese company Maple Armor, a manufacturer of fire alarm systems, purchased land in Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville to build a new factory there. corn The Montreal Journal He revealed that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office had intervened to prevent him from settling there, due to the close proximity to the Canadian Space Agency.

in 2020, Journalism It also revealed that a McGill University professor was chosen to develop the space agency’s systems under a contract between 1998 and 2004, notably a telecommunications antenna, later identified by the FBI as the coordinator of a spy ring that stole industrial secrets to fuel Chinese missile development. .

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