LONDON: Chinese spies are targeting British officials in sensitive positions as part of an increasingly sophisticated spying operation to gain access to secrets and their specialised knowledge, the British government said today.
The government, responding to a parliamentary report in July which found the government’s approach to the threat posed by China was inadequate, said measures were in place to stop officials from being recruited, including regular vetting and software to help them identify fake profiles on social media.
“The government recognises that Chinese recruitment schemes have tried to headhunt British and allied nationals in key positions and with sensitive knowledge and experience,” the government said.
There has been growing anxiety about Chinese activity in Britain, exacerbated since it was revealed at the weekend that a parliamentary researcher was arrested in March on suspicion of spying for China.
The arrest of the young researcher, who denied being a spy, has led to calls by British members of parliament for a tougher stance on China.
The Chinese foreign ministry called the spying claims “entirely groundless”.
Sunak has come under pressure from some lawmakers in his Conservative Party to take a tougher stance with China, but he wants to while boost economic ties within the constraints of protecting national security.
In its highly critical parliamentary report, the intelligence and security committee said Beijing had successfully penetrated every sector of the British economy and ministers have been too slow to deal with the threat.
China is involved in a “whole state” assault on Britain and the government’s approach has been “completely inadequate” and dominated by short-term economic interests, the ISC concluded after a four-year inquiry.
Chinese spying efforts in Britain were once focused on the hacking and stealing of intellectual property, according to lawmakers.
But there has been a growth in human intelligence, targeting officials in senior positions, the lawmakers said.