Data Leak Suspect Allegedly Used Japanese Work Place Email to Contact Chinese Firm

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Metropolitan Police Department on November 1, 2020, in Chiyoda ward, Tokyo.

The Chinese researcher arrested on suspicion of leaking research data on a cutting-edge technology to a Chinese company allegedly used his Japanese workplace email to contact the firm on several occasions, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

The Public Security Bureau of the Metropolitan Police Department is investigating whether other data may have been leaked, too.

Quan Hengdao, a senior researcher at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, participated in research into a fluorine compound synthesis technology. According to a statement issued by the MPD, Quan in April 2018 sent an email to the Chinese company containing research data and is suspected of leaking information tantamount to AIST’s trade secrets.

The MPD arrested Quan on Thursday on suspicion of violating the Unfair Competition Prevention Law by disclosing trade secrets. The case was sent to the Tokyo District Prosecutors Office on Friday.

According to investigation sources, the Chinese company manufactures chemical products and has a Japanese office in Tsukuba. Quan allegedly exchanged messages with the Chinese company several times using his workplace email address at least since about one year before the leaking incident.

The Chinese firm handles fluorochemical products, and possibly used information provided by Quan for purposes including product development.

Quan, 59, has worked at AIST since April 2002, and at one time concurrently taught at the Beijing Institute of Technology. The Public Security Bureau is investigating how Quan deepened his links with the Chinese company, and whether he received payment for providing information.

At a press conference Friday morning, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno described the alleged leak as “extremely regrettable.” Matsuno explained that the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry had instructed AIST to establish the facts of what happened and implement thorough measures to prevent information leaks.