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Four held in US over China military plot: report

AFP | November 4 2005

FBI agents in Los Angeles have arrested four people with ties to Hong Kong for allegedly trying to smuggle sensitive material on US military technology to mainland China, a press report said Friday.

The material included research into silent propulsion systems for US warships, a technology that is banned from export to China, the South China Morning Post reported, citing an FBI affidavit.

The four, all ethnic Chinese, allegedly planned to steal secrets from a defence contractor where one of them worked and transport the information to the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou on encrypted CDs, the newspaper said.

One of the four, Mak Tai-wing, and his wife were arrested at Los Angeles International Airport last Friday night as they were about to board a Cathay Pacific flight leaving for Hong Kong around midnight.

The two others, Mak's brother Mak Chi, and his wife, Rebecca Chiu Lai-wah, were arrested at their home, the paper said.

A spokeswoman at Hong Kong's Security Bureau declined to comment while the department was checking on the report.

The paper said an FBI affidavit states that Mak Tai-wing, a permanent US resident, is the broadcast and engineering director for Phoenix North American Chinese Channel, which broadcasts programmes in the United States.

Phoenix television is headquartered in Hong Kong.

The newspaper said Mak Chi is a lead project engineer at a defence contractor, Power Paragon, on a research project involving Quiet Electric Drive (QED) technology for use aboard US Navy warships.

"QED is an extremely sensitive project," the FBI was quoted as saying. The US navy considers it "significant military equipment" and the US bans its export to most countries.

The FBI also alleges Chi was planning to smuggle other secrets to China and that they found in his home shredded documents printed in Chinese, one of which instructed Chi to gain information on a number of military technologies including space-based military systems, the paper said.

Mak Chi was ordered held without bond. Li Fuk-heung was scheduled to appear in court at a bail hearing Thursday evening, and Mak and Chiu are scheduled for bond hearings on Saturday.

If convicted, each of the four could face prison terms of up to 10 years plus fines, the paper said.

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