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A Winnipeg man was a member of the Chinese military branch behind cyber attacks on Canada, officials claim Globalnews.ca

Lt. Col. Huajie Xu, a military veteran who spent 20 years in uniform, now lives on a quiet street in Winnipeg.

However, he did not serve in the Canadian Armed Forces.

Instead, he was a member of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, according to records obtained by Global News.

Before arriving in Canada in 2021, Xu worked at the Chinese Cyber ​​Warfare Department’s Military Academy, which hacks Canadians and steals their secrets.

Chinese state-sponsored cyberattacks targeted Canadian companies, activists and government agencies.

But three years ago, Xu received permanent residency in Canada and moved into a newly built suburban home in the capital of Manitoba.

The 43-year-old was questioned by immigration officials as he landed at Vancouver airport and said he and his wife left China because “the air quality was getting worse.”

“We found out via the internet that air quality is better in Canada.”

Former PLA member Huajie Xu opens the door of a house in Winnipeg equipped with CCTV cameras.


Global News


He denied involvement in or knowledge of China’s cyberwarfare and espionage programs and insisted that he was just a People’s Liberation Army instructor.

But the army school in Henan where he taught is the training center for the PLA hacker units that target Canada and the United States.

It is also on the list of “Research organizations and institutions that pose the greatest risk to Canada’s national security.”

Beyond that, it was rated a “very high risk given its track record of training officers for signals intelligence and political warfare and conducting offensive cyber operations.”

Xu’s wife worked as a language teacher at the same PLA facility, he told immigration officials. In the photos of their marriage certificate, records show that both were wearing their VBA uniforms.

Members of hostile governments move to Canada

The case is one of a growing number raising questions about how effectively Ottawa vets those who have served foreign governments hostile to Canada.

The government has named China, Iran and Russia as the top adversaries targeting Canadians with cyberattacks and foreign interference.

At the same time, immigration authorities have issued visas and permanent residence permits to foreign nationals who worked for these regimes.

High-ranking members of the Iranian government have appeared in Canada, prompting immigration authorities to launch nearly 90 investigations.

So far, only two deportation orders have been issued against Iranian officials, most recently against Seyed Salman Samani, the former deputy interior minister.

People’s Liberation Army ID card of Lt. Col. Huajie Xu, now living in Winnipeg.


Federal Court of Justice


The government has also struggled to keep out those linked to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, which has so many veterans in Canada that it set up a non-profit corporation in 2018 but has since dissolved.

Last month, the government produced documents relating to another Winnipeg couple with ties to the PLA who were fired from the Canadian Infectious Diseases Laboratory because of their extensive ties to Beijing.

“It was very disappointing for me,” said Mehmet Tohti, managing director of the Uighur Rights Advocacy Projectan advocacy group for the Chinese Uyghur minority.

According to Tohti, China is conducting increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks against activists, targeting them with phishing emails, malware and spyware.

Knowing that members of the same government that was targeting them live in Canada has put activists in fear, he said.

“This is a national security issue.”

Cyber ​​attacks against Canada

Xu’s case is notable because he spent most of his military career at the PLA Information Engineering University. PLAIEU.

“The PLAIEU is China’s only military academy for cyber and electronic warfare and is considered an information warfare research center for the Chinese military,” he said The Canadian federal judge wrote Last month.

Until 2016, the school was under the Chinese Cyber ​​Espionage Division, the Third Division, or 3/PLA.

After a reorganization, it was taken over by the Network Systems Division of the Strategic Support Force, which, the judge wrote, “was also recognized as engaging in espionage against Canada and contrary to Canada’s interests.”

The PLAIEU could not be reached for comment, but the Wrote the Australian Strategic Policy Institute that the university is known for its research and training on hacking.

“PLA experts have described the IEU as ‘the only military academy for cyber and electronic warfare of China’s cyber-electronic armed forces,'” it said.

According to the institute, a professor, Zhang Changhe, is said to have hacked foreign governments, oil companies and a nuclear safety agency.

The PLA Information Engineering University in Henan is China’s only cyber warfare military academy.


“Yes, I was a lecturer at the university, but I didn’t do anything other than teach,” Xu told the Canada Border Services Agency in an interview.

But the CBSA has argued that his role supported the work of 3/PLA, which is “responsible for numerous cases of espionage against Canada.”

“Through his work as a lecturer at this university, Mr. Xu provided material support to the ongoing activities of the Third Department by contributing to the training and recruitment of soldiers who would later work in the Third Department,” the CBSA argued.

Beijing is the biggest government cyber threat to Canada, according to Brent Arnold, a cybersecurity expert and partner at law firm Gowling WLG.

“China is the most strategic, most coordinated and has the most resources,” he said. “They are best positioned to pose the true threat.”

Sun Kailing, a PLA officer wanted by the FBI for hacking six U.S. companies.

Sun Kailing, a PLA officer wanted by the FBI for hacking six U.S. companies.


FBI


The PLA’s Strategic Support Force is responsible for cyberwarfare, including cyberattacks and electronic warfare, he said.

“Overall, China’s cyber forces are a combination of military units, government agencies and affiliated groups, all contributing to the country’s cyber warfare and cyber defense.”

That of the federal government National Cyber ​​Threat Assessment 2023-24 said the cyber programs of China, Russia, Iran and North Korea represent “the greatest strategic cyber threats to Canada.”

“The People’s Liberation Army places great emphasis on information-based warfare,” Xu told the CBSA in an interview.

“Information warfare has two aspects. One is to protect yourself. The other is to destroy your enemy.”

The last mailing address Xu listed in his immigration file was a home in a southeastern Winnipeg suburb called Sage Creek.

A man resembling Xu answered the doorbell last week but did not comment. Then a woman came to the door. “Sorry, we don’t answer questions,” she said.

The property records show that the house belongs to Ying Ruan. Immigration records list her as Xu’s wife.

Winnipeg neighborhood where two former PLA members live in a home with surveillance cameras.


Global News


During interviews with the CBSA, Xu said Ruan also worked as a civilian English teacher at the PLAIEU and underwent “very short military training.”

Neighbors said she was an optician and moved into the house with her daughter several years ago, while Xu had only recently joined them.

Ruan came to Canada as a student, received a work visa and then emigrated through the Provincial Nomination Program, records show.

“Why did you two choose to wear a military uniform on your marriage certificate?” a CBSA official asked Xu.

“You can choose what you want to wear and it was a momentous occasion and we are both at the military university. So why not?”

Hundreds of documents filed in court show that Xu joined the People’s Liberation Army in 1998 and became a member of the Chinese Communist Party in 2001.

He earned a degree in infantry command from Jinan Army College and a master’s degree in military education from PLAIEU.

Between 2011 and 2013, Xu was trained by the Russian military in Moscow. After returning to China, he became an instructor at PLAIEU until he retired in 2018.

In 2021, he applied to immigrate to Canada. Despite declaring his military career on his application form, he was accepted as a permanent resident.

The Chinese passport of Huajie Xu, a former PLA member now living in Winnipeg.


Federal Court of Justice


Immigration, Citizenship and Refugees Canada declined to respond to Global News’ question about why it admitted Xu as an immigrant.

Upon his arrival at Vancouver airport, Xu was detained by the Canada Border Services Agency due to his history with the Chinese military, but was eventually released.

The case was referred to the Immigration and Refugee Service for a hearing to determine whether he was barred from entering Canada because of his alleged membership in a PLA spy unit.

At the hearings, the CBSA argued that Xu worked for the PLAIEU, which the agency described as “a military facility operated by the PLA’s espionage divisions.”

The spy units that the CBSA was referring to were 3/PLA and its successor, the Network Systems Department (NSD) of the Strategic Support Force (SSF).

The officials highlighted the hacker attack on the US company in 2017 Equifax as an example of “an act of espionage against Canada” by the SSF.

In one of the largest data breaches of all time, the PLA SSF stole credit card numbers, social security card numbers and trade secrets. Almost 20,000 Canadians were affected.

The officials also pointed out that the SSF hacked the systems of the Immigration and Refugee Service, the agency handling Xu’s case.

People’s Liberation Army troops commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Oct. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein).


The defenders of

“There is no evidence that Mr

“There is no evidence that Mr. Xu has supported the Third Department’s goals in any way. “There is no evidence that Mr

“Mr. Xu came to Canada after his application for permanent residence was approved and was detained at the port of entry upon arrival. Instead of being granted permanent resident status following his stay here and the issuance of a visa, he was detained, interrogated and accused of being a spy.”

The Immigration and Refugee Agency sided with Xu and ruled that he was not a member of China’s cyber espionage department.

But the The Federal Court rejected the panel’s decision in a February ruling. calls it “incomprehensible” and “unreasonable.”

The court ordered a new hearing to decide whether Xu should be deported. The IRB said the matter was being heard behind closed doors. The CBSA has indicated it may also initiate proceedings against his wife.

The CBSA declined to comment on the case.

Stewart.Bell@globalnews.ca with files from Iris Dyck

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