China says it detained foreign consultant for spying for Britain | ET REALITY


China’s top intelligence agency said on Monday it had detained the head of an overseas consulting agency for working as a spy for the British government to collect Chinese state secrets.

China’s Ministry of State Security said it nabbed a consultant surnamed Huang, who collected China-related intelligence and found personnel on behalf of MI6, the British intelligence agency. The agency recruited and trained Huang, who is from an unspecified “third country,” in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, the ministry said in a post on its official WeChat account. The British government equipped the individual with “special spy equipment,” the ministry wrote.

“After a meticulous investigation, the national security agency quickly discovered criminal evidence that Huang was involved in espionage activities and took criminal coercive measures against Huang in accordance with the law,” the Ministry of State Security wrote.

The publication said Huang provided the British government with 14 state secrets and three pieces of intelligence. The statement did not specify the company Huang worked for or the person’s nationality.

While the agency has made accusations against other people it said had been caught spying for the US government in previous WeChat posts, this is the first time Beijing has accused the British of espionage in the public forum.

A Foreign Office representative in London declined to comment, citing long-standing intelligence practice, and the British Embassy in Beijing did not respond to requests for comment.

The statement came four months after the revelation that a researcher working in the British Parliament had been arrested on suspicion of spying for Beijing. The researcher, who has denied being a spy, worked with lawmakers on policy issues about China. China’s Foreign Ministry has repeatedly condemned the claim that the researcher was part of a growing Chinese spy network in Britain as “completely baseless.”

Monday’s announcement by the Ministry of State Security was also the latest sign that China is targeting consulting and advisory companies with foreign ties. Last year, there were reports of raids, detentions and arrests at prominent consulting firms, including US companies such as Mintz Group and Bain & Company.

The crackdown appeared to target companies that provide hard-to-obtain information that foreign investors use to assess potential business risks in China before making an investment. This information is especially valuable in China, where reliable information is difficult to come by.

Changes to China’s counterespionage laws have also expanded the already broad definition of what constitutes espionage. Foreign companies expressed concern that they could be targeted for espionage over normal business practices, such as gathering information about competitors, markets and industries.

Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute in London, said the fact that this accused spy comes from an industry that China has already deemed problematic makes accusations of serious espionage less compelling, because the people who work in such companies are convenient objectives.

It will be almost impossible to confirm whether this person actually has anything to do with the British spy agency, as MI6 is unlikely to say anything and the Chinese are unlikely to provide additional evidence to bolster their case, he said.

“If the Chinese really have a case, they really have to propose something else, whether publicly or privately, with the British,” Tsang said. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t take it too seriously..”

claire fu and Mark Landler contributed reports.

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