Man arrested in Edinburgh under Official Secrets Act amid China spying claims 

The researcher is a Briton who held a parliamentary pass and has worked with MPs on international policy.

British parliamentary researcher arrested in Edinburgh under Official Secrets Act amid spying claims iStock

A British parliamentary researcher has been arrested in Edinburgh under the Official Secrets Act amid allegations that he spied for China.

The man, in his 20s, was detained in the capital on March 13, according to Scotland Yard.

The researcher is a Briton who held a parliamentary pass and has worked with MPs on international policy, including relations with Beijing, for several years, The Sunday Times reported.

He has had links to several senior Tory MPs, including security minister Tom Tugendhat and foreign affairs committee chairwoman Alicia Kearns.

Officers from the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command, which oversees espionage-related offences, are investigating.

Another man, in his 30s, was also arrested in Oxfordshire on March 13.

Both men were held on suspicion of offences under section one of the Official Secrets Act 1911, which punishes offences that are said to be “prejudicial to the safety or interests of the state”.

“Searches were also carried out at both the residential properties, as well as at a third address in east London,” a statement from the force said.

The two men were held at a south London police station until being bailed until early October.

Tugendhat is said not to have had any contact with the researcher since before he became security minister in September last year.

Kearns declined to comment, adding: “While I recognise the public interest, we all have a duty to ensure any work of the authorities is not jeopardised.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak raised concerns with China’s premier Li Qiang at the G20 summit in India on Sunday, hours after news emerged of the two arrests.

Downing Street said Sunak “conveyed his significant concerns about Chinese interference in the UK’s parliamentary democracy”.

The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China pressure group said 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”.

A source close to Kearns told the PA news agency: “It is inevitable the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) would target and seek to undermine Parliament’s leading voices who have demonstrated the ability to constrain the CCP’s ambitions.”

They said that the allegations, if true, would be a “serious escalation and shows the CCP will go to any length to attack thorns in their side”.

The arrests emerged a little over a week after foreign secretary James Cleverly visited Beijing amid criticism from some senior Conservatives, who are critics of China.

He insisted the UK would have a “pragmatic” relationship with China to tackle major global issues such as climate change.

Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, one of the party’s most prominent China hawks, warned of a “deepening threat” being posed by the country under President Xi Jinping.

Sir Iain told PA: “This story gives the lie to the Government’s attempt not to see China as a systemic threat.

“Time for us to recognise the deepening threat that the CCP under Xi now pose. What price was Cleverly’s kowtow visit to Beijing?”

A report from Parliament’s spy agency watchdog, the Intelligence and Security Committee, warned in July that Beijing is targeting the UK “prolifically and aggressively”.

Last year, MI5 issued a rare security alert, warning MPs that a suspected Chinese spy called Christine Lee had engaged in “political interference activities” on behalf of China’s ruling communist regime.

Labour MP Barry Gardiner, the former chairman of the now disbanded Chinese in Britain APPG, received more than £500,000 in donations from her before the warning.

Downing Street and the House of Commons both declined to comment, citing their policies on security matters.

Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “This is an immensely serious report and shows why the UK needs a much more comprehensive response to national security threats and challenges from China and other countries.

“It comes at a time when the Government also needs to explain serious security failings over the escape of a prisoner charged with national security offences.”

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