Germany and Britain arrest suspected Chinese spies

The United Kingdom and Germany have both proclaimed the apprehension of individuals believed to be Chinese spies.

On Monday, Berlin prosecutors announced that three German nationals had transferred potentially military-grade technologies to Chinese intelligence, with which they have collaborated since at least June 2022. Two individuals were arrested on suspicion of providing “prejudicial information” to Beijing, according to the United Kingdom.

As Western nations continue to express apprehension regarding China’s geopolitical and economic policies, the arrests appear to be unrelated.

The three individuals apprehended in Germany are additionally suspected of unlawfully exporting a specialised laser, a violation of the country’s export regulations.

According to the Chinese embassy in Berlin, Beijing categorically denies allegations that it conducted espionage operations within Germany.

“We demand that Germany cease exploiting the espionage allegation to defame and politically manipulate the image of China,” an embassy spokesperson reportedly said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

The principal suspect was identified by the federal prosecutor as Thomas R, who was described as an emissary of a Ministry of State Security (MSS) employee based in China. Herwig F and Ina F, a married couple operating a business in Dusseldorf, were enlisted in an effort to secure the cooperation of scientists.

Germany and Britain arrest suspected Chinese spies

The couple entered into a cooperation agreement with a German university through their business, according to the statement. As part of the agreement, the couple prepared a study for a Chinese contractor on machine parts that can be utilised to power marine engines such as those found on combat ships.

Monday’s statement added that the Chinese contract partner was the same MSS employee from whom Thomas R obtained his orders, and that all three suspects collaborated.

According to the prosecutors, the suspects purchased the specialised laser in Germany on behalf of and with payment from the MSS, and then exported it to China without authorization.

The suspects were charged with violating the Foreign Trade and Payments Act (FTPA) of Germany, a legislation that renders economic espionage a criminal offence.

They stated that the purported collaboration with the Chinese state service commenced “at an unspecified time prior to June 2022.”

Local media outlets report that on Tuesday, all three defendants will be arraigned at the Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe, southwest Germany. If found guilty, they could each face a fine of up to five or ten years in prison.

Increasing anxiety
The United Kingdom announced later on Monday that charges had been authorised against two British nationals suspected of violating the Official Secrets Act from late 2021 to February 2023.

Christopher Berry, 32, a resident of Oxfordshire, and Christopher Cash, 29, a former researcher at the House of Commons, were both arrested on suspicion of supplying China with prejudicial information. They are scheduled to appear in court on Friday in London, according to a statement from the Crown Prosecution Service.

According to the Reuters news agency, Commander Dominic Murphy, head of the Counter Terrorism Command at the Metropolitan Police, described the investigation into the exceedingly serious allegations as “extremely complex.”

The Chinese embassy denounced the accusations as “malicious slander” and “completely fabricated,” and implored the United Kingdom to cease “anti-China political manipulation.”

A year ago, the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament (ISC) reported that China was “prolifically and aggressively” targeting the nation and that the government lacked the “resources, expertise, or knowledge” to counter it.

The Sunday Times reported in September that Cash, who was employed as a researcher in parliament for Alicia Kearns, a member of the ruling Conservative Party and chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the lower house of parliament, had been apprehended for espionage. Cash, through his attorney, issued a denial of the allegations in a statement.

As of early 2023, parliamentary documents identified Cash as an employee of Kearns. She stated on Monday that she would not comment on the most recent developments.

She wrote on X, “It is vital that neither I nor anyone else say anything that could prejudice a criminal trial concerning a matter of national security.”

Europe is becoming increasingly concerned about China’s alleged espionage activities.

A few days prior to the arrests in Germany, Chancellor Olaf Scholz visited Beijing and expressed European apprehensions regarding Beijing’s economic policies and support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The seizures were hailed by Interior Minister Nancy Faeser as “a tremendous achievement for our counterespionage efforts.”

“We are vigilantly monitoring the substantial threat posed by Chinese espionage in the fields of commerce, industry, and science,” she said in a statement. “These dangers and threats are being closely monitored, and we have issued clear warnings and raised awareness among the public in order to increase precautions everywhere.”

In recent years, British intelligence agencies have intensified their warnings regarding Beijing’s clandestine operations.

Ken McCallum, the director of the MI5 domestic intelligence agency, identified Iran, China, and Russia as the foremost security threats to the United Kingdom in 2022. According to him, the Chinese government attempted to shape British politics by influencing and targeting a variety of political figures, including those in the early stages of their careers.

A number of British parliamentarians, including former Conservative leader and prominent critic of China Iain Duncan Smith, disclosed to reporters last month that they had been the target of repeated hacking and impersonation attempts by Chinese government-affiliated hackers.

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