One day after the US officially declared war on Chinese “cyberwarriors”, the DOJ announced late on Friday that 35-year-old Chinese national and legal permanent resident, Hongjin Tan, was arrested on Dec. 20 and charged with theft of trade secrets from his employer, an unidentified U.S. petroleum company.
“Hongjin Tan allegedly stole trade secrets related to a product worth more than $1 billion from his U.S.-based petroleum company employer, to use for the benefit of a Chinese company where he was offered employment,” said Assistant Attorney General Demers. “The theft of intellectual property harms American companies and American workers. As our recent cases show, all too often these thefts involve the Chinese government or Chinese companies. The Department recently launched an initiative to protect our economy from such illegal practices emanating from China, and we continue to make this a top priority.”
“The value of the trade secrets in this case is estimated to be more than $1 billion dollars. Theft of critical research, development, and other intellectual property harms the economic prosperity and security of the United States. My office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation will utilize all tools available to respond to these types of threats. We will protect Oklahomans and Oklahoma businesses by prosecuting those who violate the law” said U.S. Attorney Trent Shores for the Northern District of Oklahoma.
While the company was not named, Shores, said the company has “significant operations” in Oklahoma. A quick look at Hongjin Tan’s LinkedIn bio shows that the CalTech-educated scientist was employed as in the Disruptive Technologies team at energy giant Phillips 66.
Secrets stolen involve the manufacture of a “research and development downstream energy market product,” according to the criminal complaint.
This is how Tan described his responsibilities on LinkedIn:
Dr. Hongjin Tan is a materials scientist with extensive industrial R&D experience. His current interests include materials and systems development for renewable energy storage, and functioning materials for various thermal, optical, and electrical devices. He is experienced in developing new materials, leading teams and research projects, supporting corporate strategic planning, and applying for federal research grants. He also specializes in working with X-rays, electron microscope, battery modeling, and “in-situ” analytical techniques.
The criminal charge, and confirmation that Washington plans to aggressively crack down on Chinese industrial espionage and theft of trade secrets, comes just hours after the Nikkei reported that Trump trade advisor Peter Navarro said that an agreement with China in 90 days “would be difficult” unless Beijing does a full overhaul of how it engages in trade as “China is basically trying to steal the future of Japan, the U.S. and Europe, by going after our technology”, confirms that any hopes for a deal with Beijing by March 1 can now be safely put to sleep.