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Radio Free Asia

Chinese spy gets 20 years in US prison

Xu Yanjun is accused of trying to steal aviation industry secrets.

By Alex Willemyns for RFA 2022.11.17 -- A Chinese intelligence official found guilty of corporate espionage for theft of trade secrets in the aviation industry was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison by a court in Ohio on Wednesday.

Xu Yanjun, 42, was an official in the Chinese Ministry of State Security and became the first Chinese spy to be extradited to the United States following his arrest in Belgium in 2018.

A jury last year found Xu guilty of attempting to steal designs for an engine fan from Ohio-based GE Aviation. Department of Justice officials said it was part of an organized effort by Beijing to "modernize" its own economy by stealing U.S. technology.

Besides seeking to steal trade secrets and recruit U.S. aviation sector employees, Xu also "recruited employees to travel to China, and solicited their proprietary information, all on behalf of the government of the People's Republic of China," according to a statement issued by the Department of Justice on Wednesday.

"This case is just the latest example of the Chinese government's continued attacks on American economic security - and, by extension, our national security," FBI Director Christopher Wray is quoted as saying, adding that Xu was part of a broader scheme.

"The Chinese government tasked an officer of its spy service to steal U.S. trade secrets so it could advance its own commercial and military aviation efforts, at the expense of an American company. This brazen action shows that the Chinese government will stop at nothing to put our companies out of business."

Xu had worked as a spy since 2003, the statement noted, and had been targeting the aviation sector since December 2013.

The sentencing of Xu comes amid an ongoing U.S. campaign to target corporate espionage by Beijing, with two spies arrested last month after seeking information to help Chinese telecoms giant Huawei's defense in a similar case surrounding trade secrets.

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