China says Britain’s MI6 recruited Chinese government employees as spies

Comment on the photo, Beijing and many Western countries are increasingly accusing each other of espionage

  • author, Kelly ng
  • Role, BBC News

China has accused Britain’s intelligence agency of recruiting a couple as spies, the latest in a series of recriminations between Beijing and the West in recent months.

According to the Ministry of State Security, two Chinese government employees were successfully recruited after MI6 agents took advantage of the man’s “strong desire for money.”

The man, surnamed Wang, convinced his accomplice, surnamed only Zhou, to join him as a British spy, the ministry said.

The men were accused of providing “articles, notes, documents or information” to a foreign country, while China described the allegations as “malicious slander”.

China did not reveal how it uncovered the case involving Mr. Wang and Ms. Zhou, saying only that it came after a “thorough investigation.”

The case is still under investigation and Chinese officials have not said whether charges will be brought against the couple.

The BBC has requested a response from the UK government, which said it would neither confirm nor deny the allegations relating to intelligence matters.

China’s Ministry of State Security alleged that MI6 began sponsoring Mr Wang when he was studying in the UK under a Sino-British exchange program in 2015.

The ministry claimed that agents took a special interest in him in the UK, such as inviting him to dinners and tours to better “understand his interests and vulnerabilities”.

Through Mr. Wang, MI6 agents also recruited Ms. Zhou to spy for China, the country’s Ministry of State Security alleged. It added that both had “key confidential roles” in an unnamed government agency, without providing details about what they did or where they worked.

Wang was hesitant at first but couldn’t resist [the operatives’] “Attempts at persuasion, temptation and even coercion were repeated, and I finally agreed,” the ministry said in a statement on the WeChat app.

“At Wang’s strong instigation, Zhou agreed to gather intelligence…he and his wife became British spies.”

It’s unclear why Beijing chose to publicize the issue, says Zhong Jaian, a researcher at Carnegie University in China. It is possible to announce the case as a form of retaliation, but Beijing has also arrested people on espionage charges in the past.

Dr. Zhong said that without more information, it is difficult to confirm the veracity of Beijing’s claims.

“Sometimes these… opacity don’t show up [the Chinese Communist Party] “Including its judicial system, especially when it comes to espionage cases, can make understanding the details of a case particularly difficult,” he added.

China’s Ministry of State Security has been posting frequent updates on its official channel since its launch in August.

Among other things, it also warned citizens against photographing military equipment and warned against organizations “recruiting aviation enthusiasts as volunteers” to transmit Chinese aviation data to other countries.

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