OTTAWA, Nov 14 (Reuters) – A Hydro-Quebec employee and researcher, whose work related to battery materials, has been charged with espionage for allegedly trying to steal trade secrets for the benefit of China, said the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) on Monday.
Yuesheng Wang, 35, is scheduled to appear in court in Longueuil, Que., on Tuesday to face four counts, including obtaining trade secrets, unauthorized use of a computer, fraud to obtain trade secrets and breach of trust by a public official, the RCMP said.
“While he was employed by Hydro-Quebec, Mr. Wang allegedly obtained trade secrets for the benefit of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), to the detriment of Canada’s economic interests,” the RCMP said in a statement. a statement.
Police say Yuesheng, a native of Candiac in the predominantly French-speaking province of Quebec, allegedly committed the crimes at the power company from February 2018 to October 2022. A special RCMP national security unit has begun investigating in August, police said.
Yuesheng worked for Hydro-Québec’s Center of Excellence in Transportation Electrification and Energy Storage, a research unit dedicated to the development of battery materials that has partnered 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 limited 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 Yuesheng could not immediately be located for comment.
According to a profile on ResearchGate, a social networking site for scientists, a Yuesheng Wang who worked at Hydro-Quebec briefly held a postdoctoral position at the University of Arkansas in 2016, and contributed to numerous scientific papers.
“Wang reportedly used this position to conduct research for a Chinese university and other Chinese research centers. He would have published scientific articles and filed patents in association with this foreign actor, rather than with Hydro-Québec,” said an RCMP spokesperson.
Canada is looking to scale up its own production and processing of critical minerals so it can produce batteries and electric vehicle battery materials domestically. China is the world’s largest supplier of materials for electric vehicle batteries.
“The fact that this alleged espionage concerned the battery ecosystem reminds me how careful we will have to be,” Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne told reporters. He said his ministry had recently “blocked three deals where we saw foreign players trying to take stakes in some lithium mining companies.”
Earlier this month, Canada ordered three Chinese companies to divest themselves of their investments in critical Canadian minerals, citing national security.
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 present and met with US President Joe Biden on Monday.
Diplomatic tensions between Canada and China have been high since the detention of Huawei Technologies executive Meng Wanzhou in 2018 and Beijing’s subsequent arrest of two Canadians on espionage charges.
Tensions eased after the three were released last year, but are rising again ahead of Canada’s announcement of a new Indo-Pacific strategy to challenge China on human rights issues, while cooperating with the world’s second largest economy on climate change and other common goals. .
Spokespersons for Trudeau and Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino had no immediate comment.
“No organization is immune to such a situation and we must therefore constantly remain vigilant and transparent,” said Dominic Roy, senior director of corporate security at Hydro-Québec, in a press release.
Police said Hydro-Quebec is cooperating fully with the investigation.
Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Steve Scherer, additional reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal; edited by Paul Simao and Bill Berkrot
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