China Spying: Former Senior EU Official Investigated for Suspected Espionage for Beijing

Written by | Friday, January 17th, 2020

German prosecutors are investigating three people who allegedly spied for China, including a former EU diplomat, the country’s authorities announced on Wednesday (15 January). “We can confirm an investigation into suspected espionage” for Chinese state security bodies, a spokesman for the federal prosecutor’s office said. German weekly Der Spiegel claims that one of the suspects was the country’s diplomat who served several stints as an ambassador for the European Union in foreign countries and later moved to work at the European Commission in Brussels. The other two suspects have reportedly worked as lobbyists for a “well-known German lobbying firm”.
Police have raided homes and offices in Brussels, as well as in Berlin and the southern German states of Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria. It’s the first case in recent years to bring concrete allegations of spying by China against the EU and Germany. EU diplomats at the European External Action Service (EEAS) privately admit that “hundreds” of Russian and Chinese spies have been planted in and around Brussels’ EU quarter. The former senior diplomat is believed to have started spying for China in 2017 by means of “sharing private and commercial information with the Chinese ministry for state security”, Der Spiegel reported. After ending his EU career in 2017, the diplomat at the center of the probe reportedly moved to work for a lobbying firm, where he then recruited the two other suspects.
The espionage investigation comes at a time of intense debate in Berlin and elsewhere in Europe about whether or not to exclude Chinese tech giant Huawei from developing Germany’s 5G mobile networks. Critics, led by US President Donald Trump’s administration, say Huawei is too close to Beijing and its equipment could be used as a tool for spying – an allegation Huawei strongly denies. Washington has already effectively banned American firms from doing business with market leader Huawei and has urged allies to follow suit. Germany so far has resisted pressure to ban Huawei, with Chancellor Angela Merkel insisting on implementing stringent security requirements without barring individual companies.

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