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RCMP Chief Inspector Larry Tremblay announces the arrest of Qing Quentin Huang of Toronto under the Security of Information Act, during a news conference with members of York Regional Police, the OPP and Toronto Police on Dec. 1, 2013.

J.P. MOCZULSKI/The Globe and Mail

The arrest of an Ontario man accused of attempting to pass along to China classified Canadian shipbuilding techniques has left some in China struggling to wrap their heads around the case.

Qing Quentin Huang, from Waterdown, Ont., was charged with attempting "to communicate to a foreign entity information that the government of Canada is taking measures to safeguard" as part of the RCMP-led probe known as "Project Seascape."

"Ship-building secrets! China is the one who is good at ship-building!" wrote user Dazhonghuaqu in a comment on Chinese online coverage of Mr. Huang's arrest. Another, qwecxz, said: "I still feel it's better for the most talented Chinese living abroad to return home and develop their career in China, where there is no discrimination and suspicion of them as spies. China's transition also needs them to serve the country."

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State-run news outlets found in Mr. Huang's case grounds to attack western countries and their media for "hyping" Chinese espionage, which the Global Times, in its Chinese edition, called thin cover for "discrimination by the west toward professional overseas China."

"In the eyes of some western countries, it seems that whenever overseas Chinese work in national defense or high-tech, they are suspected of being 'the spy,'" the Global Times wrote. Drawing attention to such incidents serves not only to stir worry among Chinese abroad, but also hurts relations with China, the newspaper wrote Monday.

Police are charging Mr. Huang, a 53-year-old engineer, with attempting to pass along classified Canadian shipbuilding techniques to China, a set of allegations that speaks to how private contractors can be possible backdoor threats to government secrets.

While police allege that Mr. Huang acted alone to take steps to illegally pass along material to China, there is no known allegation that any Chinese official agreed to take any material. In fact it is not clear what, if any, classified government material Mr. Huang could have had – his company says he had no direct access to any sensitive files.

Police have charged him with two counts of violating the Security of Information Act. "We believe he was planning to use plans, sketches and technical information relating to the naval fleet," said Sergeant Richard Rollings, an RCMP spokesman.

Since 2006, Mr. Huang has been working on marine designs for Lloyd's Register Canada Ltd., a subcontractor working on a federal program to build specialized Canadian Forces ships.

Mr. Huang has been a licensed engineer practicing marine engineering in Ontario since August, 2004, according to his profile with Professional Engineers Ontario. His profile says that he graduated with a Masters of Engineering from Huazhong University of Science and Technology in China in 1985. He also received his Bachelors of Engineering at the same school, which is located in Wuhan, the capital city of Hubei province in central China.

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With reports from Colin Freeze, Karen Howlett, Jeff Jones and Ann Hui

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