A Chinese intelligence officer was sentenced to 20 years in prison by a US court Wednesday for stealing technology from US and French aerospace firms, the Justice Department said.
Xu Yanjun was accused of playing a leading role in a five-year Chinese state-backed scheme to steal commercial secrets from GE Aviation, one of the world's leading aircraft engine manufacturers, and France's Safran Group, which was working with GE on engine development.
Xu was one of 11 Chinese nationals, including two intelligence officers, named in October 2018 indictments in federal court in Cincinnati, Ohio where GE Aviation is based.
The Chinese Ministry of State Security intelligence officer was arrested in April 2018 in Belgium, where he had apparently been lured into a counter-intelligence operation -- he had planned to secretly meet a GE employee on the trip.
He was extradited to the United States, where he was convicted in a jury trial on November 5, 2021 of attempted economic espionage, attempted trade secret theft, and two related conspiracy charges.
"Xu targeted American aviation companies, recruited employees to travel to China, and solicited their proprietary information, all on behalf of the government of the People's Republic of China," the Justice Department said in a statement.
"This case sends a clear message: we will hold accountable anyone attempting to steal American trade secrets," said Ohio federal prosecutor Kenneth Parker.
China's foreign ministry on Thursday called the charges against Xu "pure fabrication".
"We ask the US to handle the case fairly, in accordance with the law, and protect the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens," foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said at a regular press conference.