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Two men arrested amid reports a parliamentary researcher is a Chinese spy

The Houses of Parliament  (PA Archive)
The Houses of Parliament (PA Archive)

A House of Commons researcher has been arrested under the Official Secrets Act on suspicion of spying for China.

The man, who is in his 20s, was arrested in Edinburgh by officers from the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command.

The Sunday Times reported the man, who is British and holds a parliamentary pass, has links to several prominent Conservative MPs, including security minister Tom Tugendhat and foreign affairs committee chairwoman Alicia Kearns, and previously lived and worked in China.

Ms Kearns said she was “aware” of the report but would “not be commenting”.

A source close to Ms Kearns said: “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”.

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

Met officers also arrested another man, in his 30s, at a property in Oxfordshire while searches were carried out at a property in east London.

A Met Police spokesman said: “Officers from the Metropolitan Police Service arrested two men on 13 March on suspicion of offences under section 1 of the Official Secrets Act, 1911.

“A man in his 30s was arrested at an address in Oxfordshire and a man in his 20s was arrested at an address in Edinburgh. Searches were also carried out at both the residential properties, as well as at a third address in east London.

“Both men were taken to a south London police station, and were subsequently released on police bail until a date in early October.

“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. Enquiries continue.”

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 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.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, left, had a face-to-face meeting with Chinese vice president Han Zheng (Florence Lo/Pool Photo via AP) (AP)
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, left, had a face-to-face meeting with Chinese vice president Han Zheng (Florence Lo/Pool Photo via AP) (AP)

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?”

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