LONGUEUIL, Que. — A former employee of Quebec's power utility who is charged with spying on behalf of China was granted bail Monday, after a judge said the accused was more likely than not to stay in Canada awaiting trial.
Yuesheng Wang, 35, is the first person to be charged with economic espionage under Canada's Security of Information Act. He also faces three charges under the Criminal Code: fraudulently using a computer, fraudulently obtaining a trade secret and breach of trust.
Federal prosecutors opposed his release because they felt he was a flight risk. But Quebec court Judge Marco LaBrie said detention pending trial wasn't necessary because of the "serious guarantees" that Wang offered as a condition of release.
"Zero-risk doesn't exist, but the court is convinced the probability is much more likely that Mr. Wang will remain in Canada and present himself for his trial," LaBrie said, as Wang listened to a translation in Mandarin.
Wang agreed to surrender his Chinese passport, carry a cellphone at all times so police can use GPS to geolocate him, and put up his two properties as a guarantee. Wang must also check in weekly at RCMP headquarters and is forbidden from contacting the Chinese government — except to seek assistance with his case, and only after the contact is approved by his lawyer.
Wang, a Chinese national living in Canada on a work visa, worked in a specialized centre at Hydro-Québec that developed technology for electric vehicles and energy-storage systems. He is alleged to have given information about the public corporation to a Chinese university and Chinese research centres, and to have transferred confidential documents and unauthorized photos to his personal email address. Police also allege that Wang used information without his employer's consent, harming Hydro-Québec's intellectual property.
Last week, he took the witness stand during his two-day bail hearing — an unusual move, as most defendants don't testify to the evidence against them during preliminary court proceedings. Wang denied all the charges and said he wanted to remain in Canada to clear his name.
During his testimony, Wang told the court that the information he is accused of stealing was "open source" and not a trade secret. He added that the photos he had taken of the laboratory were to identify security concerns. He said he had not shared the photos.
The judge said on Monday that there was no evidence presented at the bail hearing to suggest Wang had attempted to flee the country after his Nov. 14 arrest and his termination from Hydro-Québec. He had been under RCMP surveillance for more than a month before he was charged.
Federal prosecutor Marc Cigana told reporters after the ruling that the judge's decision was "legally sound."
"The judge believed yes, there was a flight risk, but that risk was manageable, and he was able to manage it by imposing those conditions," Cigana said.
"I respect the judge's decision and I hope that Mr. Wang will also."
Defence lawyer Gary Martin said he accepted with humility the judge's ruling. "There's still a lot of work to be done, many things that are still coming from the Crown," Martin said. "I'm sure there's more reports, more evidence, more surveillance tapes. We'll have to work with that and get this case ready for a trial."
Wang's girlfriend, Yunfeng Zheng, put up $1,000 as part of his bail conditions. "Personally, I don't think he'll run away … I trust him very much," Zheng told reporters.
The resident of Candiac, Que., will remain detained until a notary draws up a court-ordered mortgage for his properties. The case will return to court on Dec. 13.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 28, 2022.
Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press