British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told Chinese premier Li Qiang he had “significant concerns” about “interference” from Beijing, hours after it emerged that two men had been arrested in the UK for allegedly spying for China.
Sunak said he’d confronted the Chinese official after news that a parliamentary researcher linked to a number of Tory MPs had been detained earlier this year on suspicion on espionage-related offenses.
“I raised a range of different concerns that we have in areas of disagreement, and in particular, my very strong concerns about any interference in our parliamentary democracy, which is obviously unacceptable,” Sunak told broadcasters in New Delhi, where he attended the Group of 20 summit.
A male suspect in his late twenties who’d worked as a researcher on international policy matters in the House of Commons was arrested by counterterrorism police in March, along with another man in his thirties, according to a person familiar with the details. The Sunday Times first reported the arrests.
Chinese state media reported in a separate readout from the Sunak-Li meeting that the Chinese premier said the two nations “should oppose mixing trade and economic cooperation with politics and security.”
Speaking on Sky News, UK justice secretary Alex Chalk said China was an “epoch-defining threat” before correcting himself to say “challenge.”
Chalk added that there was a “rigorous approach” to providing access to Parliament, but that the authorities would have to see if there were lessons to be learnt once the police investigation was over.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said on Monday at a regular press briefing in Beijing that “the so-called China espionage activity in the UK is nonexistent.”
“We urge the UK side to stop spreading false information and its anti-China political manipulation and malicious framing of China,” she said.