Updated 2:12 PM EST, Wed, Jan 29, 2020

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U.S. Indicts 6 Chinese Citizens Over Economic Espionage Charges

Cyber Espionage / Hacking

(Photo : REUTERS / Nir Elias / Files) People use computers in an internet cafe at the centre of Shanghai January 13, 2010.

The United States indicted six Chinese citizens over economic espionage charges. On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Justice said the suspects stole corporate secrets from American companies developing technology for the military.

This is the third time in so many years that the United States accused China of spying. The indictment of the six Chinese citizens shows that the U.S. is bolstering its efforts against cyber espionage, which is now a top security issue in the country, according to Reuters.

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Among the charged Chinese citizens is a professor named Hao Zhang, 36, and two other professors affiliated with the Tianjin University. Zhang was apprehended on Saturday after he arrived from a trip to Los Angeles from China, while the other five other suspected spies are believed to be still in China, the Justice Department revealed.

The U.S. charged Zhang and the two professors with theft of source code and important information from Avago Technologies Ltd and Skywords Solutions Inc, companies that both make chips for the military. The two Chinese citizens worked in these U.S.-based companies.

According to the prosecutors, Zhang left Skyworks and formed ROFS Microsystems at Tianjin using the secrets they stole from the two chipmakers. Tianjin is a university located southeast of Beijing.

The five other economic espionage suspects were identified by the prosecutors as former Avago worker Wei Pang, ROFS Microsystems board member Jinping Chen, ROFS Microsystems design engineer Chong Zhou, Tianjin University graduate Huisui Zhang, and ROFS Microsystems general manager Zhao Gang, Reuters detailed.

Based on the indictment, Pang and Zhang began formulating a plan to begin producing the technology in China between 2006 and 2007. In 2009, the two suspects quit from the U.S. tech firms to work as professors at Tianjin, the prosecutors said.

In the event of a conviction, the six indicted Chinese citizens could face jail time of up to 50 years.

During a daily briefing, U.S. State Department spokesperson Jeff Rathke said the U.S. is committed to guarding the trade secrets of American companies. The U.S. considers this a top priority issue, Rathke added.

The indictment of the six Chinese citizens over economic espionage charges had been sealed before, but it was announced when the U.S. and China became more active in their diplomatic activities.

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