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UK parliamentary staffer suspected of spying for China – Sunday Times

UK parliamentary staffer suspected of spying for China – Sunday Times

The man, who was detained and released on bail, was reportedly linked to high-ranking Tory MPs

A researcher working for the UK House of Commons and a second man were arrested in March on suspicion of spying for China, the Sunday Times reported on Saturday. 

The researcher reportedly worked on international policy and had ties to several “senior Tory MPs,” some of whom had access to “classified or highly sensitive information.” The man’s contacts were said to have included Minister of State for Security Tom Tugendhat and Alicia Kearns, chairwoman of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee. 

In a brief statement, the Metropolitan Police Service confirmed that a man in his 30s was arrested in Oxfordshire and a man in his 20s was arrested in Edinburgh under the Official Secrets Act. “Searches were also carried out at both the residential properties, as well as at a third address in east London,” the Met said. Both suspects have since been released on bail until later October.

Met’s Counter Terrorism Command, which handles espionage-related crimes, is investigating the case. 

“While I recognize the public interest, we all have a duty to ensure any work of the authorities is not jeopardized,” Kearns said, declining to comment on the matter in detail.

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A source close to Kearns told PA Media that, if the allegations are true, it would be a “serious escalation” with Beijing.

The tensions between China and the West have increased in recent years, with the heads of MI5 and the FBI making a joint statement in July 2022, calling Beijing “the biggest long-term threat.” UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly struck a more conciliatory note during his visit to Beijing late last month, stressing that Britain needed a “pragmatic, sensible working relationship with China.” He also criticized calls to entirely disengage from China.

Beijing has repeatedly denied the allegations of espionage, accusing the West of waging a global smear campaign and urging it to abandon “its Cold War mentality.” 

“We are always firmly opposed to espionage activities. We hope relevant parties will stop smearing China with groundless accusations,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said in June.