Sunak Staunchly Rejects Chinese Interference in UK Democracy amid Espionage Allegations


Rishi Sunak, reaffirmed his stance against any Chinese interference in the UK’s democratic process, following revelations of a parliamentary researcher’s arrest based on allegations of espionage for China. In his address to parliamentarians, Sunak outlined his conversation with Chinese Premier Li Qiang at the latest G20 summit, stressing that any form of espionage will not be condoned.

Met Police, on the previous Saturday, confirmed the arrest of two men under the Official Secrets Act in March. While the accused researcher has rebuffed the allegations, he expressed feeling compelled to defend himself against media accusations.

China, however, has stridently dismissed any suggestions of espionage, with foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning labelling such an allegation as “malicious slander.”

Meanwhile, cautioning against the misuse of parliamentary privilege to identify the researcher; Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Speaker of the House of Commons, urged fellow MPs to exercise restraint.

From the floor of the House of Commons during the G20 summit report, Sunak reiterated to his colleagues that the UK would refuse to “accept any interference” and would staunchly “defend our democracy and our security.” He emphasized his firm stance with Premier Li against any action designed to destabilize British democracy.

Rising to questions posed by Sir Keir Starmer, Sunak revealed that during his recent tour to China, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly also broached the issue of China’s attempts to meddle in UK’s democratic affairs. Starmer commented that such incidents underscore the ever-present threats UK faces.

In a subsequent communication, Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden acknowledged the government’s plans to increase checks on individuals linked to the Chinese government working in the UK. Numerous MPs proposed that China should be classified under the “enhanced tier” of the Foreign Influence Registration Scheme, introduced earlier this year.

Prominent Tory backbenchers, such as ex-prime minister Liz Truss and former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, have been advocating for the official recognition of China as a UK threat – a notion that the ministers have so far balked at.

Indicating the potential strength of this proposal, Dowden revealed that the government was currently considering which countries would be included in the registration scheme. He acknowledged the challenges posed by China and admitted that “completely disengaging” with the country was not a feasible solution.

The disclosure of the arrests was initially covered by the Sunday Times, linking the accused researcher to various Conservative MPs such as Security Minister Tom Tugendhat and Chairwoman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Alicia Kearns. Tugendhat, however, had only limited interaction with the accused, with no ministerial dealings.

This incident has revived the parliamentarian debate over whether stricter policies should be implemented towards China, the UK’s fourth-largest trading partner. Though crucial collaborations on international issues like climate change are often emphasized, bilateral relations have deteriorated in recent years over several contentious issues, including perceived threats to Hong Kong’s civil liberties and China’s support for Russia during the Ukraine war.


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