A former General Electric engineer has been sentenced to two years in prison in the United States for conspiring to steal trade secrets to benefit China.
Xiaoqing Zheng, who worked as an engineer specialising in turbine sealing technology at GE Power in Schenectady, New York, conspired to steal trade secrets related to GE’s turbine technologies to benefit China, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) said in a statement on Tuesday.
Zheng, 59, who worked for GE between 2008 and 2018, was convicted in March of one count of conspiracy to commit economic espionage following a four-week jury trial.
The jury acquitted Zheng or was unable to reach a verdict on 11 other espionage-related charges.
Assistant Attorney General Matthew G Olsen said Zheng’s case was an example of “textbook economic espionage”.
“Zheng exploited his position of trust, betrayed his employer and conspired with the government of China to steal innovative American technology,” Olsen said.
“The Justice Department will hold accountable those who threaten our national security by conniving to steal valuable trade secrets on behalf of a foreign power.”
US District Judge Mae D’Agostino also handed Zheng a $7,500 fine and ordered him to serve one year of post-imprisonment supervised release.
US officials have described the Chinese government as the biggest threat to the country’s national and economic security, with FBI Director Christopher Wray warning that Beijing seeks to steal critical technologies by “any means necessary”.
Beijing has denied carrying out economic espionage in the US, describing such accusations as “slanderous”.
In November, a court in Ohio sentenced a Chinese national to 20 years in prison for conspiracy to steal trade secrets from multiple aerospace companies, including GE Aviation.
US prosecutors’ efforts to prosecute China’s alleged theft of trade secrets have generated controversy due to accusations of overreach and racial profiling.
In February, the DOJ announced it would effectively end its controversial China Initiative aimed at alleged economic espionage, following a number of acquittals and mistrials involving academics of Chinese descent. (AlJazeera)