Home News Suddenly, Chinese spies seem to be all over Europe

Suddenly, Chinese spies seem to be all over Europe


One of the men was a young Briton known for his hawkish views on China and a former aide to a prominent member of the British Parliament. The other is a Chinese-German citizen and an assistant to a member of the European Parliament representing Germany’s far right.

Although they come from different countries and have seemingly different backgrounds and perspectives, both men have been mired this week in accusations of spying for China and a growing European backlash against China’s malign influence in politics and business.

A total of six people have been accused of spying for China in three separate cases in Europe this week: two in the UK and four in Germany.

The espionage cases in Britain and Germany, the first of its kind in the two countries that once had friendly ties with Beijing, have become a high-profile exclamation point in Europe’s long and often painful break with China.

Dutch and Polish authorities raided the offices of a Chinese security equipment supplier on Wednesday, shortly after British and German officials announced six citizens had been charged with espionage as part of the European Union’s crackdown on what it sees as unfair trade practices.

This is the first time the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, has used the new anti-foreign subsidies law to order a raid on a Chinese company.

In early April, Sweden deported a Chinese reporter He has lived in the country for two decades and said the journalist posed a threat to national security.

Ivana Karaskova, a Czech researcher at the Institute of International Affairs, an independent research organization in Prague, said that after years of periodic trade spats and subsequent rapprochements, Europe had “run out of patience” with China. European Commission on China.

She added that in the “multidimensional chess game” between the world’s two largest economies after the United States, China still has staunch friends in the EU, especially Hungary. But Karaskova said Europe had moved from “complete denial” in some quarters of the dangers posed by Chinese espionage and influence operations to “taking a less naive view and wanting to defend Europe’s interests.” China. “

Accused China of using spies this week The democratic processes that penetrate and influence Germany and the UK raise particular alarm as they suggest a push beyond the already well-known, business-related shenanigans into covert political intervention that had previously been seen largely as Russia’s specialty.

But Chinese experts say these accusations and a flurry of accusations this week do not indicate that Beijing is stepping up its espionage operations, but rather that European countries have stepped up their response.

“Countries are forced to face reality,” said British China expert and editor-in-chief ofEverything is sparkling” A forthcoming book details how the “golden age” of Sino-British friendship that London trumpeted a decade ago during David Cameron’s tenure as prime minister made it easy for China to bribe politicians and businessmen. The “Golden Age” was widely derided as the “Golden Mistake.”

Current British Foreign Secretary David Cameron has been an outspoken critic of China in recent months. “A lot of facts have changed,” he said during a visit to Washington in December, declaring that China had become an “epoch-making challenge.”

His shift reflects a broader shift in attitudes across much of Europe towards a rising superpower that has long looked to European countries, especially Germany, to counter what it denounces as “anti-China” from Washington. Hype”.

Germany’s security services have been publicly warning about the risks of trusting China since 2022, when, shortly after Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency said: Thomas Haldenwangtold parliament, “Russia is the storm, China is climate change.”

“In recent years, the Chinese state and party leadership have significantly increased their efforts to obtain high-quality political information and influence the decision-making process abroad,” the agency, known by its German abbreviation BfV, said last summer in an unusual public warning. ”

Until this week, however, Germany’s political leadership was more ambiguous. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz recently paid a state visit to China, Germany’s largest trading partner, to discuss trade and market access issues.

But Germany’s interior minister this week offered a blunt assessment of China’s activities. “We recognize that Chinese espionage poses considerable dangers to business, industry and science,” said Secretary Nancy Faeser. “We are closely monitoring these risks and threats and have issued clear warnings and raised awareness so that protective measures can be stepped up everywhere.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry responded that the accusations were baseless “Slander and smear against China” and demanded that Germany “stop malicious hype” and “stop anti-China political drama.”

Marek Allberg, an expert on China issues and senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund in Berlin, said, “For a long time, China has not received any major public warnings.” Now, she said, German authorities are “more willing to speak out, or no longer have the patience not to speak out.”

Three of four people arrested in Germany this week – a couple and another man – appear to have been involved in economic espionage, using a company called Innovative Dragon to pass on sensitive information about German ship propulsion systems that could have implications for the German ship propulsion systems are of great value. The superpowers were interested in building navies. They also used the company to purchase high-power dual-purpose lasers and export them to China without permission.

The fourth person is Guo Jian, a Chinese-German man accused of working for China’s Ministry of State Security, in what prosecutors called a “particularly serious case.” His regular job is as an assistant to Maximilian Krah, a member of the European Parliament for the far-right Alternative for Germany, a party friendly to China and Russia. An emerging political force, it is also the party’s top candidate in the June election.

Dresden prosecutors have since begun a “preliminary investigation” into how much Mr. Klar knew about his employees’ ties to China. On Wednesday, his party decided to continue supporting Mr Kraa for a second term as a member of the European Parliament but rescinded his invitation to campaign.

When Xi Jinping visits Europe next month, he will skip Germany and Britain and instead visit Hungary and Serbia, China’s last two staunch allies on the continent, as well as France.

British writer Thurley said that the espionage case has sounded the alarm on China’s activities, but it is only a small part of China’s efforts to gain influence and information. More important than traditional espionage, he said, China exploits a “latent network” of people who do not work directly for the Ministry of National Security but who are vulnerable to pressure from the Chinese Communist Party and other countries for business and other reasons . Its numerous branches.

“This has been going on for a while, and it’s been going on for too long,” he said.

Two men in London accused of spying for China, Christopher Cash, 29, and Christopher Berry, 32, were arrested in March last year but have been released on bail. His name was not released until he was charged this week.

Mr Cash is a parliamentary researcher with links to the ruling Conservative Party and a former director of the committee. China Research Groupan institution that often takes a tough stance against China host a podcast and criticism of Chinese interference.

His former colleagues include Alicia Kearns, a member of the ruling Conservative Party who leads an influential body in parliament. foreign affairs committeeand her predecessor, Tom Tugendhat, now security minister.

in a Statement this week, London’s Metropolitan Police said Cash and Berry were accused of breaching the Official Secrets Act and providing “information intended to be of use to an enemy, directly or indirectly”. “The foreign country involved in the above allegations is China,” it added.

“It took us a long time to wake up, but we finally saw some movement,” said British citizen Peter Humphrey charged by China He and his wife served two years in a Shanghai prison for illegally obtaining personal information while conducting due diligence work for the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline.

When Cameron visited the city with a delegation of British businessmen in 2013, he was in prison with cancer. “It was disgusting,” recalled Humphrey, an external fellow at Harvard University’s Fairbank Center for China Studies. “No one at the top levels of the British government wants to hear bad things about China because of business interests,” he said.

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