Researcher accused of spying for China seeks bail in Canada

FILE PHOTO: The British Columbia Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) headquarters, also known as "E" Division, in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada

By Allison Lampert

MONTREAL (Reuters) - A researcher arrested in Canada and charged with espionage for allegedly trying to steal trade secrets to benefit China made his first court appearance on Tuesday via a video link and sought bail.

Yuesheng Wang, 35, who worked at Canada's largest electricity producer Hydro-Quebec as a battery materials researcher, was arrested on Monday and is facing four charges in total, including fraud, for obtaining trade secrets, and breach of trust by public officers.

Wang will reappear in court via video link on Friday when a judge is expected to set a date for his bail hearing.

An investigation by a special national security unit for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police found that Wang allegedly committed the crimes between January 2018 and October 2022, according to a court filing.

Wang worked for a Hydro-Quebec research unit devoted to developing battery materials that has teamed up with industry players including the U.S. Army Research Laboratory. He was fired this month after about six years at the provincially-owned firm.

"He has his version of things," his lawyer Gary Martin told reporters after the hearing.

At the court hearing in a Montreal suburb, Wang said through an interpreter that he wanted a bail hearing right away.

Prosecution lawyer Marc Cigana, who said it was the first time someone had been charged under Canada's Security of Information Act, plans to contest the bail request, saying Wang was a flight risk.

Chinese-Canadian relations have been choppy in recent years, with both sides accusing each other of industrial espionage. This month, Canada ordered three Chinese companies to divest their investments in Canadian critical minerals, citing national security.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raised serious concerns about Chinese "interference activities" in Canada in a conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, according to a source.

(Reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal and Ismail Shakil in Ottawa; Editing by Josie Kao)