BEIJING–China said Wednesday it was ��severely concerned�� over the arrest of one of its citizens in the U.S., one of six Chinese nationals charged with economic espionage. U.S. prosecutors accused the Chinese suspects, who include three university professors, with a years-long scheme to steal cellphone technology trade secrets for Beijing’s benefit. ��China is severely concerned about this,�� foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a regular briefing, adding Beijing would defend its citizens’ rights.
According to a 32-count criminal indictment the group led a long-running effort to obtain U.S. trade secrets for universities and companies controlled by the Chinese government.
Among those charged were Tianjin University professor Hao Zhang, who was arrested as he entered the U.S. on Saturday, U.S. officials said. The five others named in the indictment were believed to be in China, according to a U.S. justice department official. All could face lengthy prison sentences if convicted. The charges they face include economic espionage, theft of trade secrets and various conspiracy counts, with penalties that could include 10 to 15 years in prison plus fines. It is the 11th case brought over economic espionage under a 1996 law, according to the U.S. justice department.
Last year the U.S. indicted five Chinese military officers for stealing information from energy, steel and aluminum companies, as well as trade unions.
Washington has long accused China of cyberspying in order to benefit Chinese companies, while Beijing frequently says it is itself a victim of hacking. China is increasingly concerned about U.S. cyberspying and has ordered many government departments to avoid using foreign technology. ��The Chinese government firmly opposes and combats thefts of trade secrets, in accordance with law,�� foreign ministry spokesman Hong said. ��As for this case, we are still checking on the details.��