China furious after three people arrested for 'spying for Hong Kong' in counter-terrorism sting

China furious after three people arrested for 'spying for Hong Kong' in counter-terrorism sting

WATCH: Tobias Ellwood says China is trying to sow the seeds of division

GB News
James Saunders

By James Saunders


Published: 14/05/2024

- 07:44

As Chinese officials reacted with anger, former Home Secretary Suella Braverman called for China to be declared a 'hostile state'

China has condemned the UK's "unwarranted accusation" of a trio of Hong Kong nationals after three men were charged with assisting the territory's intelligence service yesterday.

Chi Leung (Peter) Wai, 38, Matthew Trickett, 37, and Chung Biu Yuen, 63, are accused of spying on pro-democracy Hong Kongers in the UK, and have also been charged with foreign interference under the same Act, the Metropolitan Police said.


Two of the three accused work for British Government bodies; Wai, for the UK's Border Force at Heathrow Airport - as well as a post as a volunteer special constable with the City of London Police - is alleged to have carried out surveillance and "hostile" reconnaissance on behalf of Hong Kong intelligence.

Trickett is a Home Office immigration enforcement officer, who had spent six years as a Royal Marines commando.

Matthew Trickett, Chi Leung Wai and Chung Biu Yuen

Matthew Trickett, Chi Leung Wai and Chung Biu Yuen (in order) pictured outside Westminster Magistrates' Court yesterday

PA

While the third man charged, Yuen, is a retired Hong Kong police officer, who is employed as a Hong Kong trade official in London.

The men were detained after an investigation by counter-terror police in which 11 people were arrested under the National Security Act, introduced by then-Home Secretary Priti Patel in 2023 to curb the threat to the UK posed by hostile states.

They were charged with two offences after trying to break into the home of a Hong Kong dissident in Pontefract in West Yorkshire on May 1.

The Chinese embassy in London, in reaction to the news, said: "We strongly condemn the UK’s unwarranted accusation against the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government."

Another ex-Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, said in response to the charges: "If we are serious about national security we must... declare China a hostile state."

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Xi Jinping

China's London embassy slammed the charges

Wikimedia Commons

Alongside the Hong Kongers, a further eight people were arrested at the start of the month in the Yorkshire area - this group, comprising seven men and one woman, were not charged and were released from custody on or before May 10.

Commander Dominic Murphy, head of the Metropolitan Police's Counter Terrorism Command, said: "This operation is not connected to a recently reported Counter Terrorism Policing investigation linked to Russia.

"A number of arrests were made and searches carried out across England as part of this investigation.

"While led from London, the Counter Terrorism Policing network has been crucial to disrupting this activity and we have worked closely with the Crown Prosecution Service since the start of the investigation.

Matthew Trickett, Chi Leung Wai and Chung Biu Yuen court sketch

The trio of alleged spies, pictured in court yesterday

PA

"While these offences are concerning, I want to reassure the public that we do not believe there to be any wider threat to them.

"This investigation remains ongoing, but now that charges have been brought, I urge people not to speculate or comment further in relation to this case."

Security minister Tom Tugendhat said: "The National Security Act is a game-changer for our ability to crack down on foreign intelligence services and hostile actors. We will not tolerate attempts to threaten, harass or silence people in the UK.

"Our commitment to defending the rights and freedoms we hold dear is absolute. We will continue to put protecting the British people and our national security first."

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