By Christopher Oldcorn
September 25, 2023
One of Canada’s most prominent computer scientists revealed he declined a six-figure payment offered by Chinese agents, recognizing it as an apparent "recruitment strategy" aimed at Canadian academics.
According to Blacklock’s Reporter, Professor Benjamin Fung of McGill University provided a detailed account of the scheme during his testimony at the Commons Science committee.
“I asked them, ‘What do you want me to do?’” testified Fung.
“Their response was, ‘You just need to reply to our emails.’”
Fung is the Canada Research Chair at McGill’s School of Information Studies.
“My research interests include artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and malware analysis,” testified Fung.
“The Communist Party of China and Chinese state-affiliated companies expressed strong interest in my research in past years.”
“In 2018, a Chinese company attempted to recruit me as a consultant in their artificial intelligence team,” said Fung.
“That company offers three times, yes, three times my salary to work for them as a consultant while I remain a professor at McGill.”
Professor Fung did not name the company.
“Have you seen agents or employees of Huawei on campus?” asked Conservative MP Corey Tochor (Saskatoon-University, SK).
“Several years ago, they were much more active,” replied Fung.
On May 19 2022, cabinet banned Huawei Technologies from Canada’s fifth-generation wireless networks.
“This recruitment strategy is called ‘feed, trap and kill,’” testified Professor Fung.
“They first use lucrative offers to attract their targets. Once a professor relies on their funding, they will start making unreasonable requests, including transferring intellectual property rights, getting sensitive data or asking the professor to say something that may not be true.”
“After I rejected their offer, they contacted me every one or two years and offered different kinds of collaboration,” said Fung.
“They also started to approach my graduate students. Fortunately, none of my students have joined the company.”
“The analogy is ‘feed, trap, kill,’ is that correct?” asked MP Tochor.
“Yes,” replied Fung.
“There was an offer of financial compensation three times your salary; is that the ‘feed’ part?” asked Tochor.
“That’s the feed part and I see other professors falling into the other two steps,” replied Fung.
“It is a typical strategy the Chinese government often uses to recruit researchers,” said Fung.
“Once a professor has the funding, they will start expanding their team.”
Once researchers depended on generous annual grants “that is the moment they are trapped,” said Fung.
“That’s the moment the company or Communist Party of China may ask the professor to do something.”
“The last term is ‘kill’?” asked Tochor.
“That is basically saying something that is untrue or ruining the reputations of the professor,” replied Fung.
The professor informed MPs that Chinese foreign students were also subject to pressure from Communist Party agents.
“Through the China Scholarship Council, many international students from China are fully funded to study and participate in research in Canada,” said Fung.
“Not many people understand international students face undue pressure and funding agreements from the Chinese government. If students violate the rules or refuse to follow instructions, the Chinese government will ask their family to pay back the scholarship.”
In a 2022 report, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre acknowledged it had information about suspicious cash transfers involving Chinese foreign students.
“A number of suspected ‘money mules’ are international students receiving wire transfers from individuals and entities in China,” said the report Underground Banking Through Unregistered Money Services Businesses.