Hydro-Québec employee accused of spying for China is a flight risk, Crown says

Yuesheng Wang faces four charges under the Security of Information Act and the Criminal Code of Canada. (Yuesheng Wang/LinkedIn - image credit)
Yuesheng Wang faces four charges under the Security of Information Act and the Criminal Code of Canada. (Yuesheng Wang/LinkedIn - image credit)

The Hydro-Québec employee accused of spying for China is a flight-risk and should not be released on bail, prosecutors argued Tuesday.

Yuesheng Wang, 35, a researcher who is alleged to have illegally done work for Chinese institutions while employed at Hydro-Québec, appeared in court on Tuesday morning.

Wang appeared via video conference link at the Longueuil courthouse for a hearing to set a future appearance date. He requested a Mandarin interpreter, though he said he spoke English.

The bail process will take longer than usual in this case because of the nature of the accusations, Wang's lawyer, Gary Martin, told reporters outside the courtroom.

"More disclosure will be coming. These are the first steps of the procedure," Martin said. "He has his version of things that will be established.… We can't speculate."

Martin referred to the charges against Wang as "unprecedented." Wang is charged with fraud, unauthorized use of a computer, breach of trust by a public officer and obtaining trade secrets, a charge under the Security of Information Act (SIA) — the first time the charge has been laid in Canada.

Marc Cigana, the Crown prosecutor assigned to the case, said he believes there is evidence that Wang is a flight risk and there is a "serious" possibility that if he were released on bail, he would flee the country.

But Cigana did not call Wang an accused Chinese spy.

"Mr. Wang is accused of economic espionage, but I won't qualify him," the prosecutor said. "He is a human being who is presumed innocent, who is facing these charges."

Wang, who has a limited knowledge of English and does not speak French, shook his head as the charges were translated into Mandarin for him in court on Tuesday. He tried to have his bail hearing held immediately but was advised by his lawyer to delay. Quebec court Judge Anne-Marie Beauchemin ordered Wang remanded to a detention centre.

Lawyers appeared virtually Friday to determine a bail hearing will be held next Wednesday and Thursday, with the help of a Mandarin translator.

The case was put off until Friday, when more evidence will be disclosed and when the parties will discuss scheduling a bail hearing. Neither lawyer could say following Tuesday's hearing whether Wang has Canadian citizenship.

WATCH | Why the RCMP arrested Yuesheng Wang:

On Monday, RCMP Insp. David Beaudoin, who leads the Integrated National Security Enforcement team, said the charges against Wang stem from his publishing of academic papers and patents in connection with Chinese universities and institutions.

Wang's activities benefited the People's Republic of China, to the detriment of Canada's economic interests, Beaudoin said.

Wang's profile on LinkedIn, the social networking site, lists him as a Hydro-Québec employee since 2016. He has a master's degree in materials engineering from the Chinese Academy of Sciences' institute of physics.

His byline has appeared on academic papers published in conjunction with researchers at Chinese institutions as recently as March 2022, while he was employed at Hydro-Québec's Center of Excellence in Transportation Electrification and Energy Storage (CETEES).

Wang's research focused on batteries.

Pierre Fitzgibbon, Quebec's economy minister, said energy security is a government priority.

"We're realizing how vulnerable we are," Fitzgibbon told reporters on Tuesday.

When he heard that the charges against Wang, which have not yet been tested in court, concerned battery technology, Fitzgibbon said his thoughts turned toward other sensitive information that may be of interest to foreign powers, including hydroelectric dams.

"It's worrisome but at the same time it shows that we have interesting things to offer in Quebec, on the positive side. That's a small positive to take away."

Hydro-Québec said in a statement on Monday that its corporate security branch became suspicious of Wang's activities and, in August 2022, passed its suspicions on to the RCMP, which started an investigation that led to Wang's arrest Monday morning.

Hydro-Québec is Quebec's government-owned energy provider.

Tina Zhu, a representative of the Canada-China Friendship Promotion Association, was at the courthouse Tuesday to learn more about the case.

She said the proceedings are likely to cause discrimination against the Chinese community in Canada, which is already reeling from an increase in racism tied to the pandemic.

"We have to fight that. It is discrimination," she said. "We are human beings, we are the same."