UK’s spy allegation linked to Hong Kong a clumsy political show
Published: May 14, 2024 08:08 PM
Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

British authorities on Monday charged three men with "assisting Hong Kong's intelligence service in Britain," under the UK's 2023 National Security Act. China's central government and the local authorities in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) have strongly condemned the UK's moves as "malicious fabrication" and "unwarranted accusations."

Among the three accused was an office manager at the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office (ETO) in London. The duty of the ETO is to maintain close liaison with interlocutors in local governments, businesses, think tanks and various sectors, according to the HKSAR government. 

A Beijing-based expert, who requested to remain anonymous, told the Global Times that while there is no such a thing as Hong Kong's intelligence service in Britain, the UK did have a notorious Special Branch within the Hong Kong Police Force before the city's return to the motherland. This branch's primary role was to gather intelligence on the Chinese mainland and other countries using Hong Kong as a frontier.

The expert noted that since China introduced the National Security Law for Hong Kong in 2020, the UK has spared no effort in slandering the law, despite the fact that the UK has no sovereignty, jurisdiction or right of supervision over Hong Kong. Nonetheless, under its own National Security Act, which the UK government says is to protect the country from "the threat of hostile activity from states targeting the UK's democracy, economy and values," the UK is now extending its black hands to China. Such actions are blatant double standards, said the expert.

The UK's latest accusation of spies linked to Hong Kong is following the recent trend in Europe regarding alleged "Chinese spies." A few days ago, the British media reported that about 270,000 military payroll records have been exposed to Chinese hackers in a breach at a third-party contractor. Last month in Germany, three German citizens were arrested under suspicion of arranging to transfer information about sensitive technology to China. 

In the collective Western smearing of China, the UK seems to be the most vocal and active participant. However, its groundless accusations of so-called Chinese espionage are evolving in a clumsy and absurd direction. It seems that the doctor examining the UK's symptoms of persecutory delusion should give it a severe diagnosis.

Actually, the one who is obsessed with espionage and infiltration is not China, but the UK itself. Early this year, China's Ministry of State Security disclosed a case in which MI6, the UK's secret intelligence service, used foreign personnel from "a third country" to engage in espionage activities against China. One of the reasons that the UK is so sensitive about China's "espionage" is that it is measuring others' corn by its own bushel.

Li Guanjie, a research fellow with the Shanghai Academy of Global Governance and Area Studies under the Shanghai International Studies University, told the Global Times that the fundamental reason for the UK's anxiety and unease toward China is the trend of "the East is rising and the West is declining."

"China has developed rapidly, not in a way that the West desires. Meanwhile, China sticks to its political position, ideology and thinking. Therefore, the West feels threatened and resorts to a propaganda campaign against China," said Li.

Li noted that the UK's political manipulation is undermining China-UK relations which are already undergoing tests and difficulties. 

It is self-degradation for the UK to seek the limelight on the world stage by smearing China, especially at a time when post-Brexit UK is struggling with recession and losing presence in diplomacy. To solve these problems, the UK should look into itself, rather than finding fault with China. The question is, does the UK's political atmosphere limit its ability to steer in the right direction?