Ottawa seeks to hide 'sensitive' details of foreign interference case from public view
Wanping Zheng is accused of using his space agency status to negotiate contracts for a Chinese company
The federal government is seeking to shield from public view some details of the case against a former Canadian Space Agency engineer accused of negotiating on behalf of a Chinese aerospace company.
Last December, the RCMP charged 61-year-old Wanping Zheng with breach of trust in a case police say is tied to foreign interference.
Wanping Zheng is accused of using his status as an engineer at the CSA to negotiate satellite station installation agreements with Iceland on behalf of a Chinese aerospace company.
The federal attorney general's office recently filed documents in Federal Court seeking an application under the Canada Evidence Act, which balances protection of national security with the constitutional right of the accused to a fair trial.
Under the act, a judge can decide whether certain details in a case should be disclosed in open court or protected for national security reasons.
According to documents filed in Federal Court, the government is concerned that "sensitive information or potentially injurious information" will come out during Zheng's criminal trial.
The government's arguments will be heard at a later date.
The RCMP said it started investigating Zheng's activities back in 2019 after the space agency's security department sent information to INSET, the unit set up to detect and disrupt any foreign interference.
A CSA spokesperson said he stopped working for the agency that year.
"We do consider this to be a matter of foreign actor interference," RCMP Inspector David Beaudoin, the officer in charge of operations for the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (INSET) in Quebec, said at the time of Zheng's arrest.
A source with knowledge of the investigation said the company Zheng is accused of helping is called Spacety. It's a Chinese company specializing in satellites that can take high-resolution images.
According to his Spacety biography, Zheng claimed to have overseen a number of aerospace projects, including "the establishment and implementation of a number of major Canadian national aerospace projects," while at the Canadian Space Agency.
The biography says he "presided over and participated in large-scale space projects such as the International Space Station, space radar, radar satellite, scientific satellite, and experimental satellite."
His LinkedIn profile said he "participated in most of the recent Canadian space missions as a technical expert or a manager."
Zheng is back in court March 17.
With files from Elizabeth Thompson