The Wall Street Journal reported on April 27 that a Chinese man, Shuren Qin, is set to plead guilty to several charges in a federal court on Wednesday (April 28). He is accused of illegally procuring more than $100,000 worth of U.S. maritime technology for a Chinese Communist Party military research institute.
Under a plea agreement between Qin Shuren and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston, he is expected to plead guilty to conspiracy to violate U.S. export regulations, visa fraud, lying to government agents, money laundering and smuggling, among other charges.
In exchange, U.S. prosecutors agreed to drop several other charges and said they will ask that Qin Shuren serve the lower sentence set by the sentencing guidelines, which could be about seven years in prison, depending on the judge’s findings.
Qin Shuren Accused of Serving Communist China to Build Undersea Drone Armament
U.S. officials and court documents filed describe Qin Shuren as a cog in Beijing’s ambitious plan to build an undersea drone armament, according to the China Daily. The plan is based in part on access to advanced U.S. and allied technology. And the program is becoming a threat to U.S. naval power.
In the Pacific, Indian and Arctic oceans, Beijing is deploying a growing number of advanced maritime drones, forming a network of sensors that U.S. officials believe can track U.S. submarines. This could diminish the U.S. Navy’s key advantage below the surface, just as its surface ships are increasingly vulnerable to the threat of Chinese Communist missiles.
For its part, the Communist Party’s Defense Ministry said the accusation that China stole U.S. technology is completely false.
In court, Qin’s lawyers described him as a businessman who provided oceanographic instruments to Chinese scientists. They said he moved to the United States to give his children an American education and to “do more deals” with U.S.-based manufacturers.
Qin is accused of providing $8 million in goods to Communist-controlled entities
Under the plea agreement, Qin is expected to admit to using false shipping information to purchase 60 hydrophones, or devices used to detect and monitor underwater sounds, from a U.S. supplier.
Prosecutors say Qin misled the U.S. supplier by falsely claiming the devices were intended for a Chinese civilian researcher. Instead, they ended up without the required export license and were sent to a Chinese Communist Party research institute engaged in military research and involved in an undersea drone program.
U.S. prosecutors also said Qin’s exports to China included unmanned underwater downloadable vehicles (UUVs) and robotic ships. Between 2015 and 2018, Qin provided $8 million in goods to entities controlled by the Chinese Communist government. Prosecutors said his buyers included the Communist Navy’s South Sea Fleet and the Naval Submarine Academy.
Qin Shuren made no secret of his interest in underwater drones, according to his neighbors in the Boston suburb of Wellesley. They recalled that the Chinese national once invited local children to test an underwater robot in his backyard pool, and he demonstrated one at his own children’s school on another occasion.
Neighbors were stunned when police arrived at Qin’s home and arrested him in 2018.
Chin only pleaded guilty to charges related to the underwater listener, according to the WaPo. In a 2019 interview, Qin said he never sold UUVs and only provided equipment for scientific research, mainly to Chinese academic institutions.
Qin, who lives in Wellesley and became a permanent U.S. resident in 2014, runs several China-based companies that import underwater and marine technology products primarily from the United States and Europe. One of these companies, Ocean Chain Technologies, has customers including Chinese Communist Party research institutions and the military’s naval operations division. Qin Shuren is the president of this company.
In 2016, Chinese national Fuyi Sun was caught trying to smuggle high-grade “carbon fiber” from the U.S. for aerospace and military use, and after pleading guilty in April 2017, he was sentenced in federal court in the Southern District of New York on Aug. 31 to 36 months in prison, after which he was He was deported to China.
Sun Fuyi was arrested in April 2016 when he arrived in New York on a tourist visa to purchase Toray-type M60JB-3000-50B carbon fiber for use in aerospace technology and military drones at a UC company disguised by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Because the U.S. currently embargoes this M60 carbon fiber to the Chinese Communist military establishment, an export license is required.