China has lashed out at the United Kingdom, saying reports that a UK parliamentary researcher had been arrested on suspicion of spying for China were “malicious slander”.
British media reported that the 28-year-old researcher, who had spent time teaching in China after graduating from university, had been arrested in March.
He was employed by Alicia Kearns, a ruling Conservative party MP who chairs the parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, the report said. The suspected spy has also been linked to Security Minister Tom Tugendhat who has been critical of Beijing and is the founder of the China Research Group, which brings together Conservative MPs looking for “fresh thinking” on China.
The UK’s Metropolitan Police confirmed over the weekend that two men had been arrested – a man in his 20s on suspicion of spying and a man in his 30s on suspicion of offences under the Official Secrets Act.
Both were arrested in March and bailed until October, they added.
After reports of the arrests emerged, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told Chinese Premier Li Qiang at the G20 summit in New Delhi that he had “very strong concerns” about Beijing’s “interference” in democracy.
A spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in London, however, said the reports were “malicious slander”.
“The claim that China is suspected of ‘stealing British intelligence’ is completely fabricated and nothing but malicious slander,” the spokesperson said in a statement published late on Sunday.