‘Completely innocent’: UK parliamentary researcher denies spying for China

Suspect says espionage for Chinese government ‘would be against everything’ he stands for.

big ben and british flag
The Sunday Times reported the espionage suspect was a researcher in the UK Parliament [File: Matt Dunham/AP Photo]

A man reported to be a United Kingdom parliamentary researcher who has been arrested on suspicion of spying for Beijing says he is “completely innocent” and not a “Chinese spy”.

The man, whose identity has not been released by UK authorities but is said to be in his 20s, denied any involvement in espionage, in a statement released on Monday by his lawyers.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak raised his “very strong concerns” about possible Chinese “interference” in democracy with Prime Minister Li Qiang on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in India on Sunday.

Lindsay Hoyle, the speaker of the House of Commons, was due to make a statement on the issue at 13:30 GMT.

“I feel forced to respond to the media accusations that I am a ‘Chinese spy’,” the suspect said in the statement.

“It is wrong that I should be obliged to make any form of public comment on the misreporting that has taken place. However, given what has been reported, it is vital that it is known that I am completely innocent,” he added.

“I have spent my career to date trying to educate others about the challenge and threats presented by the Chinese Communist Party. To do what has been claimed against me in extravagant news reporting would be against everything I stand for.”

Arrested in Edinburgh

Police said over the weekend that they had arrested a man in his 20s at his home in Edinburgh for spying.

Another man in his 30s was also arrested, police said. Both arrests took place in March on suspicion of offences under the Official Secrets Act. The two men have been released on bail until October.

The Sunday Times newspaper reported the man in his 20s was a researcher in the UK Parliament.

He was employed by Alicia Kearns, a ruling Conservative Party MP who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee, the paper said.

The suspect 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.

A number of MPs, including Tugendhat, have been sanctioned by Beijing.

Writing on X, formerly known as Twitter, Kearns said she was aware of the allegations and would not be commenting.

China’s reaction

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.

“We firmly oppose it and urge relevant parties in the UK to stop their anti-China political manipulation and stop putting on such self-staged political farce.”

Source: News Agencies