BEIJING, CHINA — China said on Monday it “resolutely opposes” allegations that an espionage suspect arrested in the United Kingdom was gathering information for Beijing.
British police said at the weekend they had arrested a man in his twenties at his home in Edinburgh for spying, with the Sunday Times reporting he was a researcher in Britain’s parliament.
Officers from the Metropolitan Police Service arrested him in March, along with another man in his thirties, on suspicion of offences under the Official Secrets Act and both have been bailed until October.
“The so-called claim that China is conducting espionage activities against the UK is pure fabrication,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning told a news conference.
“China resolutely opposes this.”
Mao added: “We urge the UK to stop spreading disinformation and stop its anti-China political manipulation and malicious slander.”
China’s embassy in London earlier lashed out at the media reports, with a spokesperson branding the claim a “political farce”.
The arrests led British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to tell Chinese Premier Li Qiang at the G20 summit in New Delhi that he had “very strong concerns” about Beijing’s “interference” in democracy.
“I raised a range of different concerns that we have in areas of disagreement and, in particular, my very strong concerns about any interference in our parliamentary democracy, which is obviously unacceptable,” Sunak told British broadcasters of his meeting with Li.
“The right thing to do is take the opportunity to engage to raise concerns specifically, rather than just shouting from the sidelines,” he said.
Li said both countries should refrain from mixing trade and economic cooperation with politics and security, according to Chinese state news agency Xinhua.
The Sunday Times said the suspect in his twenties had contacts with MPs from the ruling Conservative Party while working as a parliamentary researcher.
They included Security Minister Tom Tugendhat and Alicia Kearns, the chair of the Commons foreign affairs committee. Tugendhat is reported to have only had limited contact with the suspect and none while security minister.
The suspect is a Briton who has worked on international policy, including relations with Beijing, and previously worked in China, the paper said.
If proven, it would represent one of the most serious breaches of security involving another state at the UK’s parliament.