A UK Parliament researcher has been arrested under the Official Secrets Act, following allegations of espionage on behalf of China. The Metropolitan Police confirmed the arrests of two men, one in their 20s and another in their 30s, in March, with one of them believed to be a parliamentary researcher specializing in international affairs. This case has raised questions about whether the researcher should have been held on remand in a Category B jail.
According to reports, the researcher had connections to several Conservative MPs, including security minister Tom Tugendhat and foreign affairs committee chairwoman Alicia Kearns. The UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, expressed concerns about Chinese interference in the UK’s parliamentary democracy during a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Qiang at the G20 summit in India.
Both arrested individuals were later released on police bail until early October. The Met’s Counter Terrorism Command is overseeing the investigation.
This incident has revived concerns about Chinese espionage and interference in British politics. The UK Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, visited Beijing recently and stressed the importance of engaging with China. However, some MPs have called for a reassessment of the UK’s approach to China, considering the deepening threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party.
The UK Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee previously warned about the security risks posed by Beijing’s interference, noting China’s intent to influence UK political thinking and decision-making. New national security legislation has been enacted in the UK to address espionage and security threats more effectively, although this occurred after the arrests under the old Official Secrets Act.
The incident reflects broader international concerns about Chinese espionage and interference, as witnessed in countries like Australia and Canada. The Chinese government has consistently denied engaging in such activities.