China has rejected as “pure fabrication” allegations that an espionage suspect arrested in the United Kingdom was gathering information for Beijing.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning made the remarks during a press conference on Monday, following the arrest of a parliamentary researcher for spying at the weekend.
“The so-called claim that China is conducting espionage activities against the UK is pure fabrication,” she said. ”China resolutely opposes this.”
Mao further urged the UK “to stop spreading disinformation and stop its anti-China political manipulation and malicious slander.”
On Saturday, UK police said they had arrested a man in his twenties at his home in Edinburgh for spying, with the Sunday Times reporting he was a researcher in Britain’s parliament.
Officers from the Metropolitan Police Service arrested him in March, along with another man in his thirties, on suspicion of offenses under the Official Secrets Act and both have been bailed until October.
The Sunday Times report said the suspect in his twenties had contacts with MPs from the ruling Conservative Party while working as a parliamentary researcher.
The suspect is a Briton who has worked on international policy, including relations with Beijing, and previously worked in China, the report added.
The incident has raised concerns over possible Chinese interference in Britain’s parliamentary democracy.
The latest development comes as the two countries attempt to stabilize bilateral ties that have frayed badly in recent years.
Last month, Britain’s Foreign Secretary James Cleverly began a long-awaited visit to China to “further promote the sound and stable development of bilateral relations.”
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who is aiming to pursue a nuanced, non-confrontational approach to relations with Beijing, said on Sunday that he had raised his concerns during a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Qiang at the annual meeting of the Group of 20 (G20) in India, after the reported arrest of two alleged spies.
He also defended last month’s visit to Beijing by his foreign minister, saying “engaging with people allows you to raise concerns directly and I think that’s a more powerful thing to do.”
British business and trade minister Kemi Badenoch also has stressed that China should not be described as a foe but as a “challenge.”
“China is a country that we do a lot of business with, China is a country that is significant in terms of world economics ... We certainly should not be describing China as a foe but we can describe it as a challenge,” she told Sky News on Monday.
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