By Biodun Busari
The first Chinese spy to be extradited to the United States, Xu Yanjun for trial in 2021 has been sentenced to 20 years in prison on Wednesday.
According to the US Justice Department, Xu was convicted in November 2021, of espionage – plotting to steal trade secrets from various US aviation and aerospace firms.
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A US federal court in Cincinnati, Ohio, sentenced him on counts of conspiring and attempting to commit economic espionage and trade secret theft.
Meanwhile, Chinese authorities reacted to the verdict on Thursday, saying the allegations against Xu are “untrue.”
Prosecutors had asked for a 25-year sentence to act as a warning against similar actions, but Xu’s lawyers argued in previous court filings that such a sentence would exceed those given to other people convicted of such crimes.
“Today’s sentence demonstrates the seriousness of those crimes and the Justice Department’s determination to investigate and prosecute efforts by the Chinese government, or any foreign power, to threaten our economic and national security,” US Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.
Xu, 42, indicted of being a career intelligence officer for China’s Ministry of State Security, was incarcerated in Belgium in 2018 after an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
He was alleged to have used pseudonyms and front companies between 2013 and 2018 to target multiple U.S. aviation and aerospace companies, including GE Aviation, a unit of General Electric Co (GE.N).
However, at a news briefing in Beijing, China’s capital, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said the accusations against Xu “are simply untrue.”
“We ask the U.S. side to handle the case without bias and in accordance with the law and protect the lawful rights and interests of Chinese citizens,” Mao said.
US agents have said the Chinese government stands as the most significant long-term threat to America’s economic and national security.
FBI Director Christopher Wray said its agency had opened a new counterintelligence case linking to China, adding that the Asian nation is carrying out efforts to steal critical technology from US businesses and researchers.
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