Hong Kong man arrested in US for trying to smuggle space technology to China

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 February, 2014, 11:30am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 February, 2014, 11:30am

A Hong Kong man was arrested in Seattle last week for attempting to export spacecraft navigation technology to China, US prosecutors have said.

Chin See-kee, alias Alfred Chin, was part of a scheme to obtain export-restricted technology and illegally smuggle it to China, according to a statement by Jenny Durkan, the US attorney for the Western district of Washington.

The 56-year-old Hong Kong man was arrested in Seattle earlier this month after he paid more than US$85,000 for accelerometers used in spacecraft low- and zero-gravity navigation systems, the Department of Justice said.

The US requires a licence by the Department of State for exports of the equipment. Accelerometers measure acceleration forces, which is important in calculating a spacecraft’s trajectory and even atmospheric pressure during re-entry into earth.

Chin was charged under the Arms Control Export Act, which allows for punishment of up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to US$1 million.

Chin appeared in the US District Court in Seattle on February 11. A Canadian citizen had been mediating between the US manufacturer of the equipment and Chin since September last year, according to Durkan’s statement.

At least 30 people have been prosecuted since 2007 for exporting or attempting to export technology restricted by the Arms Export Control Act to China.


In September last year, a Chinese national identified as Zhen Zhou Wu, alias Alex Wu, was re-sentenced on appeal to seven years in prison and a US$15,000 fine for illegally exporting tens of millions of dollars of US military electronics to China over a 10-year period.

In 2008, Chi Mak alias Mai Dazhi, a naturalised US citizen of Chinese origin, was sentenced to 24 years in prison for attempting to slip US naval technology to China. His sentenced was confirmed on appeal in 2012.