British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak raised “very strong concerns” with Beijing about China’s alleged interference in the U.K. parliament.
Sunak relayed his concerns to Chinese Premier Li Qiang at the G20 summit in India following the arrest of a purported Chinese spy working in the parliament.
Sunak told broadcasters in New Delhi that he expressed “very strong concerns about any interference in our parliamentary democracy, which is obviously unacceptable.”
He added that his meeting with Li in the margins of the G20 gathering was an example of the benefits of engagement rather than “shouting from the sidelines.”
“We discussed a range of things and I raised areas where there are disagreements,” Sunak said. “And this is just part of our strategy to protect ourselves, protect our values and our interests, to align our approach to China with that of our allies like America, Australia, Canada, Japan and others, but also to engage where it makes sense,” he said.
The Sunday Times reported that a parliamentary researcher with links to several senior Tory MPs, including the foreign affairs committee chair Alicia Kearns, was arrested under the Official Secrets Act.
The researcher was arrested along with another man on March 13. Officers from the Metropolitan police’s counterterrorism command, which covers espionage, are investigating, the paper said.
The researcher, in his 20s, was arrested in Edinburgh and the second man, who is in his 30s, was detained in Oxfordshire, according to the report. Police also carried out checks at an address in east London. Both men were held at a south London police station before being bailed until a date in early October.
The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, which has pressed the U.K. government for a more hawkish stance toward Beijing, said it was “appalled at reports of the infiltration of the U.K. parliament by someone allegedly acting on behalf of the People’s Republic of China.”
Kearns declined to comment but said on social media: “While I recognize the public interest, we all have a duty to ensure any work of the authorities is not jeopardized.” A person close to her told the PA news agency: “It is inevitable the Chinese Communist Party would target and seek to undermine parliament’s leading voices who have demonstrated the ability to constrain the CCP’s ambitions.”
The researcher also had links to security minister Tom Tugendhat, but is said to have had no contact since Tugendhat took on that role, according to the Sunday Times report.
At the end of August, James Cleverly, the foreign secretary, visited Beijing amid criticism from hawkish Tory MPs.
Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith said U.K. institutions were “deeply penetrated by the Chinese,” and that the government was “so desperately thinking about China as a business problem, they fail to realize how dangerously threatening China really is becoming.”
A meeting between Sunak and Li at the margins of the G20 had been discussed in the run-up to the summit, as POLITICO reported, but it was not confirmed until Sunday morning.
According to Chinese state-controlled news agency Xinhua, Li told Sunak that the U.K. and China should properly handle disagreements and respect each other’s interests and concerns.
Source : Politico