A rat in the UK’s ranks
There’s a spy scandal unfolding in Britain after the Sunday Times reported (paywall) that 2 men were arrested in March under suspicion of infiltrating the UK Parliament on behalf of China. One of the men arrested was 28yo Chris Cash – a parliamentary researcher for the Conservative Party (aka the Tories). During his time there, he worked on projects for Tom Tugendhat (who would go on to be the UK’s security minister) and Alicia Kearns (the chairwoman of the nation’s powerful Foreign Affairs Committee) focused on China. At the time, Cash was also single and ready to mingle… The second man is in his 30s, but not much has been reported about him. If proven, pundits say it would be one of the most damaging breaches of security at Westminster.
HOW’S THAT GONE DOWN?
It’s a good question because the placement of spies in the UK’s halls of power would be next-level stuff… And experts say it would be a major escalation by China at a time when the relationship is strained. At the weekend’s G20 leaders summit, PM Rishi Sunak raised the issue of meddling directly with Chinese Premier Li Qiang, saying he has “very strong concerns about any interference in our parliamentary democracy, which is obviously unacceptable”. It’s not the first time the UK has brought it up – an intelligence report from July warned against Chinese investment in the UK tech sector and last year, government departments were told to stop installing Chinese-made surveillance cameras. But Sunak – like other Western leaders – has decided that engagement with China is better than nothing, and efforts to warm up their relationship are ongoing.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
Claims of spies in the UK Parliament raise the question of whether Australia might have its own moles, according to Coalition Home Affairs spokesman James Paterson. Earlier this year, ASIO boss Mike Burgess warned that “more Australians are being targeted for espionage and foreign interference than at any time in Australia’s history.” And when it comes to keeping tabs on officials, experts say look no further than TikTok – that’s prompted bans on having the social media app on government devices, including in Oz. Deep into the struggle against China’s push into the world, US President Joe Biden was asked about his administration’s relationship with China yesterday. He said he wasn’t looking to start a Cold War but that China must “succeed by the rules”.
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