BEIJING, Apr 20 (Reuters) China today denied it is engaged in industrial espionage in Canada, calling accusations by the Canadian foreign minister baseless and irresponsible.
Ottawa responded by saying its concerns were real and promised to address the matter with the Chinese government.
Canadian Foreign Minister Peter MacKay said in an interview broadcast on Sunday that his government was very worried by the extent of Chinese industrial espionage inside Canada and would raise its concerns with Beijing.
''There does not exist any so-called economic espionage activities in Canada,'' Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a regular news conference.
''The accusations are baseless and irresponsible. The Chinese side expresses grave concern,'' Qin said.
''We hope the Canadian government can make a clear distinction between right and wrong and do more things that are conducive to the healthy development of the Sino-Canadian strategic partnership and not the opposite.'' Asked for his reaction, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said MacKay's comments were well-founded.
''We have some concerns with certain activities of the Chinese government in this country and we do intend to raise them at the appropriate time,'' Harper told reporters in Montreal, saying he did not think trade ties would be affected.
MacKay said it was particularly important to protect such Canadian companies as Research in Motion Ltd. , maker of the wireless e-mail BlackBerry device.
Research In Motion said last week it expected to launch its BlackBerry service in China by mid-year. Canadian media reports say state-controlled China Unicom Ltd. had introduced its own version this month, nicknamed the Redberry.
MacKay is a member of the new Conservative government, which defeated the Liberals in a January. 23 election. When in opposition, he accused the Liberals of doing little to prevent China from stealing Canadian industrial secrets.
REUTERS SC PM0147