A UK Parliament researcher who was arrested under anti-espionage laws and accused of spying for China has declared his innocence. In a statement released through his lawyers, the man stated that he felt compelled to respond to the media’s accusations. The researcher, who had access to several Conservative MPs, was one of two men arrested in March under the Official Secrets Act. China has vehemently denied the spying allegations, calling them “malicious slander.”
The Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, has cautioned MPs against using parliamentary privilege to identify the arrested researcher. The man’s identity has not been disclosed by the BBC. Lawyers representing the researcher quoted him as saying, “It is wrong that I should be obliged to make any form of public comment on the misreporting that has taken place. However, given what has been reported, it is vital that it is known that I am completely innocent. I have spent my career educating others about the challenges and threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party. To be implicated in the extravagant news reporting would go against everything I stand for.”
The Metropolitan Police confirmed that two men were arrested in March under the Official Secrets Act. One of the men, in his 30s, was detained in Oxfordshire, while the other, in his 20s, was arrested in Edinburgh. Both men have been released on bail, and the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command is leading the investigation into espionage-related offenses.
The arrests have sparked a debate among Conservative MPs about whether the UK should adopt a tougher stance towards China. Some have called for China to be designated as a threat to the UK, a move resisted by the government thus far. There are also calls to place additional reporting requirements for China-linked organizations under the country’s security laws.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak expressed his concerns about Chinese interference in the UK’s parliamentary democracy during a G20 summit in India, where he was due to meet Chinese Premier Li Qiang. The UK’s relationship with China has deteriorated in recent years due to various issues, including the situation in Hong Kong and China’s support for Russia during the war in Ukraine.