Parliament researcher rejects China spying claims

A UK Parliament researcher arrested under anti-espionage laws amid claims he was spying for China has said he is “completely innocent”.

In a statement released through lawyers, the man said he felt “forced to respond” to accusations in the media.

The researcher was one of two men arrested in March under the Official Secrets Act.

It is understood the researcher had access to several Conservative MPs.

House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle is due to make a statement in Parliament at 14.30 BST.

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Lawyers for the researcher quoted him as saying: “It is wrong that I should be obliged to make any form of public comment on the misreporting that has taken place.

“However, given what has been reported, it is vital that it is known that I am completely innocent.

“I have spent my career to date trying to educate others about the challenge and threats presented by the Chinese Communist Party.

“To do what has been claimed against me in extravagant news reporting would be against everything I stand for.”

The Metropolitan Police confirmed on Saturday that two men were arrested under the Official Secrets Act in March.

One of the men, in his 30s, was detained in Oxfordshire, while the other, in his 20s, was arrested in Edinburgh.

Sources have told the BBC one of them was a parliamentary researcher involved in international affairs issues.

Both men have been released on bail, and the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command, which oversees espionage-related offences, is investigating.

China stance row

The Sunday Times, which first reported the arrests, said the researcher had access to Security Minister Tom Tugendhat and Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman Alicia Kearns, among others.

Mr Tugendhat is said to have had only limited contact with the man, and no dealings with him as a minister.

The arrest of the researcher has renewed a debate among Conservative MPs about whether the UK should take a stricter approach to China.

Senior Tory backbenchers, including former leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith and MP Tim Loughton, have called for the government to officially designate China as a threat to the UK – a move so far resisted by ministers.

Earlier, Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch said the UK had to be “very careful with the language that we use”, adding that calling China a threat would “escalate things”.

She said the UK’s current position – that China presents an “epoch-defining challenge” – was in line with the stance taken by British allies.

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