Rishi Sunak was told about the arrest of the alleged ‘Chinese spy’ in March but still wooed Beijing, sources claim
- It is understood he and Foreign Secretary James Cleverly were told after arrest
The Mail understands that the Prime Minister, along with Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, was informed in a ‘timely’ manner about allegations of espionage in Westminster.
Yet Mr Sunak today stopped short of saying whether Mr Cleverly raised the case when he became the first Foreign Secretary in five years to visit China last month.
Sources said Mr Cleverly did raise wider concerns about foreign interference in bilateral meetings.
The 28-year-old researcher has insisted he is completely innocent. He has not been named by police.
In a statement released through his lawyers, the researcher said he has spent his career highlighting the ‘challenge and threats presented by the Chinese Communist Party’.
Meanwhile, a minister said the Tories took ‘swift action’ to drop two potential candidates to become MPs after MI5 warned they could be Chinese spies.
The security service advised the party in 2021 and 2022 that the two hopefuls should not be included on the central list of candidates, The Times reported.
Health minister Maria Caulfield said her party had responded quickly after being given the warning about the would-be MPs.
‘I think, whichever party is in government, there will always be those who are trying to target it, either to get information or to influence,’ she told Times Radio.
‘The story that we have heard about today, about the candidates who the Conservative Party were warned about, swift action was taken and they were removed from the list. They are not standing for election.’
She added: ‘Any intelligence that comes forward, it just shows that we will take that very seriously; the same with the researcher in Parliament.
‘It does show that there are other nations always wanting to infiltrate government of all parties.
‘But we have shown that we take that seriously and act swiftly when that intelligence comes forward.’
MI5, the security service, is said to have raised concerns that the pair had links to China’s United Front Work Department, China’s main agency for shaping public opinion.
The Times cited an unnamed source as saying it was made ‘very clear’ to the Conservatives that the candidates ‘posed a risk’.
They said: ‘They were subsequently blocked from the candidates list. They weren’t told why.’
A Tory spokesman said: ‘When we receive credible information regarding security concerns over potential candidates we act upon them.’