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Canada Begins Probe After UK Reports of Western Military Pilots Training Chinese Army

The Department of National Defence is looking into whether any former Canadian military pilots are involved in training the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China after the United Kingdom found some ex-pilots had accepted training roles in the Chinese military.

On Oct. 18, Britain’s Defence Ministry said it issued an intelligence alert to former and current military pilots, warning against Chinese headhunting programs aimed at recruiting pilots to train the PLA.

The BBC reported that up to 30 former British military pilots are currently in China training PLA pilots. The report said the pilots are asked to provide vital and sensitive information such as how Western planes and pilots operate. Some pilots receive annual salaries of roughly 240,000 pounds (CAD$370,000) to conduct the trainings, the BBC reported.

UK Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said similar recruitment attempts from Beijing have been a concern for the defence ministry for “a number of years.” He said the pilots known to be training the PLA have been approached and asked to stop.

“China is a competitor that is threatening the U.K. interest in many places around the world,” Heappey told British news outlet Sky News. “It is also an important training partner but there is no secret in their attempt to gain access to our secrets, and their recruitment of our pilots in order to understand the capabilities of our air force is clearly a concern to us.”

Heappey also noted that British authorities are taking steps to make it a legal offence for pilots to continue with such training activities.

“We are taking decisive steps to stop Chinese recruitment schemes attempting to headhunt serving and former U.K. Armed Forces pilots to train People’s Liberation Army personnel in the People’s Republic of China,” said the British Ministry of Defence in a statement.

Probe Begins in Canada

Following these reports, Canada’s Department of National Defence has begun investigations into the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), said Daniel Le Bouthillier, head of media relations at the Defence Department.

“We are aware of these reports, and we are looking into this further with federal partners,” Le Bouthillier told the Globe and Mail.

He also noted that veterans are still bound by secrecy commitments after leaving the CAF.

“The Security of Information Act applies to both current and former members, and non-compliance with the act could result in serious consequences,” Le Bouthillier told the Globe.

“As an institution that upholds democratic principles and the rule of law, we trust and expect current and former CAF members to adhere to the values of the institution. Any behaviour that could potentially harm Canadian national interests is a violation of this trust and will be dealt with appropriately.”

Conservative defence critic James Bezan called for the CAF to launch an immediate investigation to determine “if any Canadians are undermining our collective national security,” the Globe reported.

“Anyone who has violated their obligations under Canadian law must be held to account.”

Several media have reported that a South African flight school, the Test Flying Academy of South Africa, has been acting as the middleman for the PLA in recruiting pilots from the United Kingdom, Australia, and other Western countries.

On Oct. 19, Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles said its military has also begun probing whether its members are participating in training the Chinese military.

Andrew Chen


Andrew Chen is an Epoch Times reporter based in Toronto.

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