Over this past weekend UK media outlet The Times revealed that two individuals, one who was a parliamentary researcher, were arrested in March 2023 on suspicion of having been recruited to spy against the UK Parliament on behalf of China.
Scotland Yard said in a statement issued, September 9, “Officers from the Metropolitan Police Service arrested two men on March 13 on suspicion of offences under Section 1 of the Official Secrets Act, 1911.” The statement described where the individuals were arrested and that searches of their residences had occurred and that the two were released on bail until a “date in early October.” The statement describes Section 1 of the Official Secrets Act, 1911 as relating to passing information that may be “prejudicial to the safety or interests of the State” and communications which are “calculated to be or … intended to be directly or indirectly useful to an enemy.”
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak met with China’s Premier Li Qiang at the G20 summit and noted that he had told China’s premier, of his “very strong concern” about interference with parliamentary democracy, which he said was “obviously unacceptable.” He continued, that it was the “right approach” to take during a face-to-face talk.
The researcher is believed to have links to the UK security minister, Tom Tugendhat and the foreign affairs committee chaired by Alicia Kearns, who posted a note on Twitter advising that she would not be commenting.
Broad speculation includes that the researcher, an expert on China may have been recruited during one of his sojourns to China and then directed to seek employment as a researcher/advisor for ministers of parliament. The individual is in his late twenties and worked with MPs on foreign policy and relations with Beijing.
In January 2002, MI5 unambiguously identified Christine Lee as working as an agent of influence on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party, which identified the United Front Work Department as operating in a manner to influence UK politics in a manner to favor China.
It is interesting that the arrests of these individuals occurred in March 2023, just months after the UK’s MI5 director general called out the military and cleared community for their oversharing on LinkedIn, and comes to light on the heels of UK media highlighting how LinkedIn is China’s espionage playground which made the rounds in late August 2023.
For those who believe in coincidence, the story ends here. For the rest of us, the skeptics, there is no such thing as coincidence and the cadence of the flow of information highlighting China’s human intelligence activities targeting the UK’s cleared community, the UK’s elected officials and government leadership is an opportunity to heighten awareness. In addition, when the revelation of March 2023 arrests occurs as the prime minister is meeting with his counterpart at the G20, all subtlety is gone and the message is hammered home to China – China’s methodologies to spot, assess, target and ultimately attempt to recruit sources within the United Kingdom are not appreciated and will not be tolerated.