Chinese ambassador summoned to Foreign Office after three charged with spying

Chinese ambassador summoned to Foreign Office after three charged with spying

The Foreign Office has summoned the Chinese ambassador to a meeting after three people were charged for spying for Hong Kong.

Zheng Zeguang met with senior officials at 10.30am on Tuesday morning over the growing row after instruction from the foreign secretary, Lord David Cameron.

It comes after Chi Leung (Peter) Wai, 38, Matthew Trickett, 37, and Chung Biu Yuen, 63, appeared in court on Monday charged with foreign interference and assisting a foreign intelligence service.

China’s London embassy reacted with fury to the charges, describing them as a “fabrication” and an “unwarranted accusation” against Hong Kong.

A Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) spokesperson said: “The FCDO was unequivocal in setting out that the recent pattern of behaviour directed by China against the UK including cyber attacks, reports of espionage links and the issuing of bounties is not acceptable.

“The summons followed Monday’s announcement that three people have been charged with offences under the National Security Act as part of an investigation led by officers from the Met Police’s Counter Terrorism Command.

Zheng Zeguang met with senior officials at 10.30am on Tuesday morning (Supplied)

“The foreign intelligence service to which the charges relate is that of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.”

In March, the government accused China of conducting a cyber espionage campaign against politicians and the Electoral Commission.

Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman and Conservative MP Alicia Kearns welcomed the summoning of the Chinese ambassador. She said: “This is a relief to hear and long overdue.

“Hostile interference on UK soil is a serious issue for which we should have absolutely zero tolerance. “We must be absolute on that with all countries.”

China’s UK embassy spokesperson said: “For some time now, the UK has staged a series of accusations against China, including those on ‘China spies’ and cyber attacks. All those accusations are groundless and slanderous.

“The British side has also wantonly harassed, arrested and detained Chinese citizens in the UK under the pretext of judicial and national security. This constitutes a grave provocation against China and severely contravenes the basic norms governing international relations.”

Wai, Trickett, and Yuen did not enter pleas and only spoke to confirm their names at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Monday. They were bailed and are due to appear at the Old Bailey on 24 May.

Sketch of, from left, Chung Biu Yuen, Chi Leung Wai, and Matthew Trickett appearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court (Elizabeth Cook/PA) (PA Wire)

It is alleged that between 20 December 2023 and 2 May 2024, Yuen, Wai and Trickett agreed to undertake information gathering, surveillance and acts of deception that were likely to materially assist a foreign intelligence service.

All wearing grey sweatshirts, Wai, of Staines-upon-Thames, Surrey; Trickett, of Maidenhead, Berkshire; and Yuen, of Hackney, east London, who was also wearing a black jacket, sat side by side in the glass-fronted dock for a brief hearing before they were given bail.

Trickett is employed as a Home Office immigration enforcement officer and was previously a Royal Commando in the marines for six years.

Wai works as a Border Force officer at Heathrow Airport and Yuen is employed as a Hong Kong trade official based in London.

District Judge Louisa Cieciora said they must abide by conditions including a 10pm to 5am curfew, reporting weekly to their local police station, not travelling internationally and informing police of devices used to access the internet.

They were charged with the offences under the National Security Act following an investigation by the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command that saw a total of 11 people arrested.

Eight men and a woman were arrested by officers on 1 May in the Yorkshire area, before a man was arrested in London and another man was arrested in the Yorkshire area the following day, the force said.

All 11 people were detained under Section 27 of the National Security Act.

The seven men and one woman who were not charged were released from custody on or before 10 May.

The Metropolitan Police said the investigation was not related to a separate case involving Russia.