The U.S. sentenced the first Chinese communist spy that was extradited to the U.S. to 20 years in prison on Wednesday, November 16, after he was convicted of all federal charges in a three-week trial.

Yanjun Xu was found guilty of targeting American aviation firms, recruiting employees to travel to China, and soliciting their proprietary information on behalf of the Chinese regime.

This is a landmark case for U.S. efforts to confront Chinese economic espionage.

According to the Justice Department, Xu, who had pleaded not guilty, is a deputy division director of China’s Ministry of State Security, the intelligence and security agency for China. 

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said, “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.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray said, “This case is just the latest example of the Chinese government’s continued attacks on American economic security—and, by extension, our national security.”

Xus was arrested in Belgium in 2018 and was extradited to the U.S. after he visited the European country to meet an undercover agent. 

Last year, a federal jury in Cincinnati convicted Xu of all counts, including espionage crimes and attempting to steal trade secrets.

U.S. Attorney Kenneth Parker said, “This case sends a clear message: we will hold accountable anyone attempting to steal American trade secrets.” 

Parker added, “Xu conspired to steal American science and technology. Thanks to the diligent work of the FBI, G.E. Aviation, and our trial team, he’ll spend decades in federal prison.”

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