UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he raised his “very strong concerns” to China’s premier regarding potential Chinese interference in British democracy after a parliament employee was arrested on suspicion of spying for China.
Speaking to journalists at the G20 summit in New Delhi on Sunday, Sunak said he used a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Qiang to raise several concerns including over “any interference in our parliamentary democracy.”
This comes after two men were arrested under the UK’s Official Secrets Act amid reports that a parliamentary researcher with alleged links to senior Conservative Party politicians including security minister Tom Tugendhat was arrested on suspicion of spying for Beijing.
UK newspaper, The Sunday Times broke the story on Sunday, reporting that the researcher was arrested alongside another man on March 13.
According to a statement from London’s Metropolitan Police, police arrested a man in his 30s in Oxfordshire, southern England, and a man in his 20s in Edinburgh, Scotland.
“The investigation is being carried out by officers from the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command, which has responsibility for investigations relating to allegations of Official Secrets Act and espionage-related offences,” the statement said.
After being brought to a police station in south London, the two men were released on police bail until a date in early October, according to the statement.
China’s embassy in London denied the spying accusations.
“The claim that China is suspected of ‘stealing British intelligence’ is completely fabricated and nothing but malicious slander,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
“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,” the statement added.
According to the Sunday Times reporting, the arrested parliamentary researcher was also linked to the chairperson of the British government’s foreign affairs committee, Alicia Kearns.
Posting on Saturday on X, formerly known as Twitter, Kearns declined to comment on the alleged ties, remarking: “While I recognise the public interest, we all have a duty to ensure any work of the authorities is not jeopardised.”
A cross party group focused on relations with China, the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) said in a statement on Saturday on X that it was “appalled at reports of the infiltration of the UK Parliament by someone allegedly acting on behalf of the People’s Republic of China.”
“It is for authorities to reveal the name of the person accused, and IPAC is united in hoping that justice is done expeditiously,” the alliance continued.