A 53-year-old Canadian has been arrested by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on charges of attempting to provide information to the Chinese government that may pose a “threat to Canada.” Police have identified him as Qing "Quentin" Huang, from Ontario, a naturalized Canadian citizen.
A spokesperson for the RCMP said Huang was arrested after being caught trying to pass sensitive information detailing Canada’s national ship procurement strategy, which officials are saying could give a dangerous military and economic competitive advantage to foreign entities that get their hands on it. According to the Toronto Star, the information in question involves an almost $40 billion strategy that involves the construction of patrol ships, frigates, naval auxiliary vessels and research vessels to be operated by the Canadian Navy and Coast Guard over the next 30 years.
“The RCMP is not aware of any threat to public safety at this time,” said Jennifer Strachan, RCMP chief superintendent in Ontario. Though Huang was detained, police have not determined any specific motive, but have announced it is not likely to be terrorism-linked. “It is important to understand there is more to a national security investigations than focusing solely on terrorism,” said RCMP Chief Supt. Larry Tremblay, director general of the force’s federal policing criminal operations in Ottawa. “It’s about protecting Canadian interests and taking the steps we need to take to protect our Canadian sovereignty.”
Huang, of Chinese descent, is an employee of Lloyd’s Register, a global risk management and assessment company, working as a structural design appraisal engineer, and tasked with ensuring compliance of ship design and structure to industry standards. Huang potentially would have been able to get his hands on the information because Lloyd’s Register is acting as a subcontractor to Irving Shipbuilding Inc., before he was caught trying to pass along the information to a contact at the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa. Huang is one of 20 marine engineers employed at the offices, according to the company’s vice president of marine management, Bud Streeter. While his employers are “shocked” by the allegations, they are cooperating with investigators. Huang has been suspended without pay.
Streeter confirmed that while Huang’s work would have given him access to commercial vessels such as smaller passenger ships and yachts, his security clearance did not allow him to access documents relating to Canadian warships or other government vessels. “He did not have any direct access or authorized access to classified information,” Streeter said. “But we would deal with information that could be client-confidential; information that, although it would not be classified, the government of Canada would deem important.”
Still, many still speculate that Huang could have accessed classified information through unauthorized means. He appeared in court on Sunday and will be back in court Wednesday for a bail hearing. If convicted, Huang could potentially face life in prison.