Germany and Britain arrest suspected Chinese spies


Germany has arrested three people suspected of supplying sensitive technologies to China and the United Kingdom has arrested two.

Prosecutors in Berlin said on Monday that the trio of German nationals had handed technologies with potential military purposes to Chinese intelligence, with whom they have been working since at least June 2022. The UK said the arrested duo were providing “prejudicial information” to Beijing.

The arrests, which appear to be unconnected, come as Western states continue to express concern over China’s economic and geopolitical policies.

The trio arrested in Germany is also accused of exporting a special laser without permission, which was pinpointed as violating the country’s export laws.

The federal prosecutor identified the main suspect as Thomas R, who was described as an agent for a China-based employee of China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS). Herwig F and Ina F – a married couple who run a company in Dusseldorf – were recruited to procure cooperation from researchers.

Through their company, the couple concluded a cooperation agreement with a German university, part of which involved preparing a study for a Chinese contractor on machine parts that can be used for operating powerful marine engines such as combat ships, the statement said.

The Chinese contract partner was the same MSS employee from whom Thomas R received his orders, and all three suspects worked together, Monday’s statement added.

The suspects bought the special laser from Germany on behalf of and with payment from the MSS and exported it to China without authorisation, according to the prosecutors.

German authorities accused the suspects of violating the country’s Foreign Trade and Payments Act (FTPA), which criminalises economic espionage.

German authorities said the alleged cooperation with the Chinese state service began around “an indeterminable date before June 2022”.

All three will be arraigned at the Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe, southwest Germany on Tuesday, and could face a fine or imprisonment of up to five or 10 years, according to local media reports.

The arrests come just days after German Chancellor Olaf Scholz visited China, during which he pressed Beijing to guarantee German firms equal market access and also conveyed concerns in Europe about Beijing’s economic policies and support for Russia in its invasion of Ukraine.

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser called the arrests “a great success for our counterespionage”.

“We are keeping an eye on the significant danger from Chinese espionage in business, industry and science,” she said in a statement. “We are watching these risks and threats very closely and have warned and sensitized people clearly so that protective measures can be stepped up everywhere.”

Berlin announced on Thursday that it had arrested two German-Russian dual nationals on suspicion of plotting sabotage attacks on US military sites in the country in a bid to undermine Western military support for Ukraine.

Growing anxiety

Later on Monday, the UK announced that it had authorised charges against two British nationals alleged to have breached the Official Secrets Act on behalf of China.

Christopher Berry, 32, and Christopher Cash, 29, were charged with providing prejudicial information to China. They will appear in court on Friday, the Crown Prosecution Service said in a statement.

“This has been an extremely complex investigation into what are very serious allegations,” said Commander Dominic Murphy, head of the Counter Terrorism Command at the Metropolitan Police, according to Reuters news agency.

There has been growing anxiety about China’s alleged espionage activity in the UK, particularly after it emerged last year that a parliamentary researcher was arrested on suspicion of spying for China.

The government said then that Chinese spies were targeting British officials in sensitive positions in politics, defence and business as part of an increasingly sophisticated spying operation to gain access to secrets.__Al Jazeera