Beijing accuses MI6 of recruiting Chinese couple as spies

China’s secret service has accused MI6 of turning two Chinese state workers and recruiting them as spies.

The ministry of state security (MSS), which has responsibility for China’s intelligence gathering and secret police, said on Monday it had uncovered the “major espionage case” involving a husband and wife both working in “core key units” of a Chinese state agency.

The accusation, which was written about by Chinese state media outlets, follows several high-profile cases of alleged Chinese espionage in Europe, including in the UK, Germany and Belgium.

In a post on its WeChat account, the MSS said the husband, surnamed Wang, had been recruited first when he travelled to the UK in 2015 as part of an exchange programme. After Wang arrived “MI6 deliberately arranged for relevant personnel to take special care of him”, the MSS said. Wang was invited to dinner gatherings and offered visits and tours, as MI6 worked “to understand his character weaknesses and interests”, it alleged.

It said they took advantage of Wang’s “strong desire for money”, and arranged for him to give “consulting services” before convincing him to return to China and spy for the British government.

Through Wang the British spies then recruited his wife, surnamed Zhou, it said. Wang had been initially hesitant but “couldn’t withstand the British repeated persuasion, enticement and even coercion”, it said.

“He and his wife together became British spies.”

The MSS said the case was under further investigation but did not say if the couple had been detained or charged.

In January it accused MI6 of recruiting a national from a third, unnamed, unnamed country to spy on China, instructing him to “use his public identity” to collect information during multiple trips to China from 2015 onwards.

The MSS has been increasingly public, launching a WeChat account last year. It has used the social media profile to announce espionage cases and advise citizens on how to avoid being co-opted by foreign forces.

Last month three men – an immigration enforcement official called Matthew Trickett, a Hong Kong trade official working in London and a Border Force officer – were charged by a court in London with unlawfully assisting the Hong Kong intelligence service. Beijing accused the UK of false accusations, “wanton stigmatisation” and arbitrary arrests in relations to the charges.

Trickett, a former Royal Marine, was found dead in a park near where he lived in Maidenhead, Berkshire, a week later. Police said the death was being treated as unexplained.

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In April, two UK nationals, including a parliamentary worker, were charged over accusations they provided prejudicial information to a foreign state, China. The men, Christopher Cash and Christopher Berry, had been arrested in March last year.

The same month, three German citizens, including a married couple from Düsseldorf and a man from Bad Homburg, were arrested on suspicion of passing on technical military knowledge to Chinese authorities in return for money. Later that month a close adviser to a leading member of Germany’s far-right populist Alternative für Deutschland party (AfD) was arrested on suspicion on spying for China.

China dismisses all allegations of espionage as “malicious slander”.

The Foreign Office declined to comment.

The Guardian