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14 May, 2024 14:02

Hong Kong lashes out at UK over ‘spy’ claims

A London court has charged three people with assisting an unnamed foreign intelligence service
Hong Kong lashes out at UK over ‘spy’ claims

Officials in Hong Kong and China have strongly denied claims of spying in Britain after a London court charged three men with assisting a foreign intelligence service on Monday. 

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee condemned the charges and called for the British authorities to provide full information about the arrests.  

“Any attempt to make unwarranted allegations against the Hong Kong government is unacceptable,” Lee said at a regular press briefing, as quoted by Bloomberg.  

Lee also appealed for fair treatment for one of the suspects who works for Hong Kong’s trade outpost in London.  

The defendant, Bill Yuen Chung-biu, is the office manager of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in London. The other suspects are Peter Wai, a dual British and Chinese national, who is a UK Border Force officer, and Matthew Trickett, a private investigator and former Royal Marine commando.  

The men were charged with assisting a foreign intelligence service between December 2023 and May 2024 by “agreeing to undertake information gathering, surveillance and acts of deception” in Britain, Reuters reported, citing the charges brought in court. The suspects face a maximum possible sentence of 14 years for each charge.  

Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China and a former British colony. The Chinese embassy in the UK also issued a statement on Monday condemning what it described as the “UK’s malicious fabrication and unwarranted accusation” against Hong Kong.  

“The UK has staged a series of accusations against China, including those on ‘China spies’ and cyber-attacks,” the statement said, insisting the accusations are “groundless and slanderous.” China has also urged the UK to “stop spreading the so-call[ed] ‘China threat theory’ and end “political manipulation” against the country. 

Last month, two British men were charged with spying for China and breaching the Official Secrets Act. According to police, Christopher Cash, a former parliamentary researcher, and Christopher Berry, a teacher, “obtained, collected, recorded, published, or communicated” information that was determined to either be, or potentially be, “directly or indirectly, useful to an enemy.” 

US President Joe Biden’s administration has also repeatedly accused China of state-backed hacking and cybercrime. The Five Eyes intelligence alliance comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and US previously accused Beijing of intellectual property theft and of using artificial intelligence for hacking and spying against the nations in the group.  

Hong Kong operates 14 economic and trade offices around the world. Their aim is to advance the city’s economic interests and promote foreign investment in Hong Kong.

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