China ‘infiltration’ warning issued as James Cleverly defends controversial meeting

China ‘infiltration’ warning issued as James Cleverly defends controversial meeting
Ben Chapman

By Ben Chapman

Published: 02/08/2023

- 17:34

The minister for Indo-Pacific affairs met a controversial Chinese official

Iain Duncan Smith has issued a grave warning over China as James Cleverly plots a controversial trip to the world superpower.

The former Conservative leader said the Government must consider its relationship with the country which continues in its policy to combat “western universalism”.

Duncan Smith said China intends to “invade” many different aspects of British societies in its bid to become a technological and economic superpower.

It comes after a recent British parliamentary intelligence and security committee (ISC) report claimed the country is hopeful that others will be reliant upon them as a result of their advances, an ambition which “poses a national threat to the UK”.

The Government has sparked controversy after UK minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan met with a Chinese official accused of overseeing the “forceful return” of dissidents to the country.

Iain Duncan Smith told GB News that he has tried to raise his concerns to Foreign Secretary James Cleverly on the matter, but they have fallen on deaf ears.

“They are the biggest danger and threat the West faces”, he said.

“I think the UK needs to do more to face up to that rather than rush over there often to do business deals and turn a blind eye to some of the most egregious abuses that we haven’t seen of this scale since the Second World War.

“I argued that we shouldn’t be sitting down with these people. This meeting that took place is quite unnecessary, I’m not blaming her for it because this is Foreign Office failure for not briefing someone properly about someone they are going to meet.

“I have a suspicion this was the case here. She shouldn’t have been sitting down with him. I raised this with the Foreign Secretary, his comment was ‘you’ve got to get used to it’.”

China insists Russia is 'most important strategic partner' despite fury over Ukraine warPresident of the People's Republic of China Xi JinpingReuters

The Conservative MP went on to discuss the threat China poses to the UK, with an “invasion” not beyond the question.

He told Tom Harwood and Bev Turner: “I think the term given to me was ‘robust pragmatism,’ which I think is a Yes, Minister term, frankly.

“We refer to China as an ‘epoch-defining challenge’, when actually they’re a threat.

“The problem we have is they will infiltrate every single agency we’ve got. They’re already infiltrating our universities, many of our technology outlets and they’re trying to seize technology from the UK.”

The Chinese official in question, Liu Jianchao, has been banned from meeting German politicians after he was accused of overseeing the “forceful return” to China of dissidents living in the UK.

The German counterintelligence urged politicians not to meet with China’s International Liaison Department, led by Liu, as it “acts as an intelligence agency”.

The comment reportedly made by Cleverly has been disputed by sources close to the Home Secretary, and Foreign Office officials suggested that Indo-Pacific Minister Trevelyan “robustly engaged” with Beijing during the meeting at the Great Britain-China Centre Senior Leadership Forum.

At a debate on the issue last month, Trevelyan said: “We consider it important to engage with our Chinese counterparts, where appropriate, to protect UK interests and build relationships.

“I therefore was comfortable sitting down with Liu Jianchao for a political dialogue... because I believe it is important to have such conversations. In every diplomatic relationship, being frank is possible only if the parties are in the room together.”

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “The UK will engage robustly and constructively with China, not as an end in itself, but to manage risks and produce results.”

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