Foreign Secretary James Cleverly refrains from commenting on Chinese researcher

The Foreign Secretary said he and Rishi Sunak had spoken to Chinese leaders about “interference in our democracy”.

But, asked if he raised the allegations with Beijing, he said he would not comment on “security related matters”.

The researcher has said he is “completely innocent”. Public confirmation of the arrest came only weeks after Mr Cleverly became the first Foreign Secretary in five years to visit China, amid efforts to develop more pragmatic ties with the country.

The arrest of the Briton – who maintains he is completely innocent – under the Official Secrets Act has led some Tory backbench “hawks” to renew calls for the Prime Minister to take a tougher line on Beijing.

Don’t miss… King Charles briefed about alleged ‘Chinese spy’ in Westminster

The news also sparked questions and debate about the influence and insights the major Asian power might hope to gain into parliamentarians.

There are concerns in Whitehall about how the staffer was reportedly able to access the parliamentary estate using a visitor pass, in part due to his links with senior Tories including security minister Tom Tugendhat and Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman Alicia Kearns.

Mr Cleverly refused to be drawn on what he knew of the arrest before his visit to China, citing a longstanding convention of not discussing intelligence matters.

He and the Prime Minister were pressed this week over whether the matter had been raised with Chinese officials during the trip.

Don’t miss…
China sends 68 warplanes and 10 warships to surround Taiwan in major threat[LATEST]
China alert as North Korea capable of giving Russia ‘good quality’ weaponry[INSIGHT]
Chaos as 75 crocodiles on the loose in China after floods destroy farm[ANALYSIS]

We use your sign-up to provide content in ways you’ve consented to and to improve our understanding of you. This may include adverts from us and 3rd parties based on our understanding. You can unsubscribe at any time. More info

Mr Cleverly told the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme: “We do not comment on intelligence or security-related matters.

“The Prime Minister is absolutely right that both he and I raised with the Chinese authorities their actions which are seeking to undermine or distort our democracy.”

But Mr Cleverly insisted he did not regret the talks as he hit out at critics of the Government’s position on China. “There is incredibly important work to do,” he said.

“And the advocates of somehow ignoring China, pretending it doesn’t exist, not talking to China, not having an embassy in Beijing, and not having a Chinese embassy in the UK.

“Some people have said that we should disengage from China. That is not a credible option. “When there is a difficult relationship – and this is a challenging and difficult relationship – it is more important rather than less important that you maintain those face-to-face communications.”

Source: Read Full Article