Government Concerned About Chinese Espionage

April 14, 2006: Government Concerned About Chinese Espionage

Updated Fri. Apr. 14 2006 11:31 PM ET

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Government 'concerned' about Chinese espionage News Staff

The federal government is “concerned” that Chinese spies are stealing Canada's industrial and high-technology secrets, Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay told CTV.

“We're very concerned about economic espionage,” MacKay said in an interview with CTV's Question Period, to be broadcast Sunday on CTV at 12 p.m. ET.

While in opposition, the Conservatives challenged the Liberal-led government to act on reports of Chinese espionage.

While acting as the Conservative foreign affairs critic, Stockwell Day called on former prime minister Paul Martin to address the issue during a visit to Beijing in January 2005. Day is now the public safety minister.

As the opposition leader, Harper himself pressured Martin to confront the Chinese government, quoting estimates by former Canadian Security Intelligence Service agent Michel Juneau-Katsuya on the number of spies operating in Canada.

Now, the new Conservative government appears ready to act.

“It is something we want to signal that we want to address, and to continue to raise with the Chinese at the appropriate time,” MacKay said.

Intelligence files reportedly suggest that an estimated 1,000 Chinese agents and informants operate in Canada. Many of them are visiting students, scientists and business people, told to steal cutting-edge technology.

An example being touted as copied technology is China's Redberry — an imitation of the Blackberry portable e-mail device, created by Waterloo, Ont.-based Research in Motion Ltd.

“The Blackberry RIM company is a perfect example of the type of technology and the economic impact that protecting that kind of trademark,” said MacKay.

According to a 2003-2004 CSIS report to Parliament, foreign spies are trying to uncover ''Canada's scientific and technological developments, critical economic and information infrastructure, military and other classified information, putting at risk Canada's national security.''

However, CSIS does not specifically mention China in the report.

“It would appear, based on evidence and reporting, that there is a fair bit of activity here,” MacKay said.

Juneau-Katsuya said the former Liberal government knew of the espionage, but were too afraid to act.

“We didn't want to piss off or annoy the Chinese,” said Juneau-Katsuya, who headed the agency's Asian desk. “(They're) too much of an important market.”

However, he argued that industrial espionage affects Canada's employment levels.

“For every $1 million that we lose in intellectual property or business, we lose about 1,000 jobs in Canada,” he said.

The Chinese embassy in Ottawa has denied the spy claims.

Meanwhile, a recent decision to allow Chinese political dissident Lu Decheng, 43, to emigrate to Canada has already raised tensions between Beijing and Ottawa.

China imprisoned Lu for nine years after he defaced a portrait of Mao Zedong in Tiananmen Square with paint. He received an immigration visa from Canada earlier this month.

Russia has also attempted to steal Canadian technology, leading to the arrest of two operatives in 1996.

With a report by CTV's Ottawa bureau chief Robert Fife