May 23, 2024

Worries over efforts to sway upcoming EU elections rise, with MEP Krah also probed over Russian influence operation.

German police have arrested an aide to a far-right Member of the European Parliament on suspicion of spying for China.

Prosecutors announced on Tuesday that Jian G is believed to have repeatedly passed information on the workings of the European Parliament to China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS). The arrest spurred warnings in Europe that democracy is under threat ahead of EU elections in June, while provoking anger in Beijing.

The German authorities did not specify which politician employed the arrested man. However, media reported that the German national was an aide to Maximilian Krah.

The MEP is the lead candidate for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party for the upcoming European Parliament election. Krah is on a list of populist politicians across Europe suspected of taking bribes to push pro-Russian narratives in a scheme uncovered by Czech intelligence earlier this month.

Jian G was arrested in Dresden late on Monday and his apartment was searched, prosecutors said. As well as reporting on negotiations and decisions of the European Parliament in January, he also allegedly spied on Chinese opposition figures in Germany.

Attack on democracy

Berlin’s Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said the spying allegations were “extremely serious”.

“If it is confirmed that there was spying for Chinese intelligence from inside the European Parliament, then that is an attack from inside on European democracy,” she declared in a statement.

“Anyone who employs such a staff member also carries responsibility,” she added. “This case must be cleared up precisely. All the connections and background must be illuminated.”

The AfD said in a short statement that the arrest was “very disturbing”.

“As we have no further information on the case, we must wait for further investigations by federal prosecutors,” said spokesman Michael Pfalzgraf.

China’s foreign ministry dismissed the reported arrest, accusing unnamed forces of efforts to smear Beijing and wreck bilateral relations.

“The intention of this kind of hype is very obvious … it is to smear and suppress China and to destroy the atmosphere of cooperation between China and Europe,” a spokesman said.

Series of arrests

The reports of Jian G’s detainment came hours after Germany arrested three others accused of spying for MSS.

Regarding that incident, the Chinese embassy in Berlin declared that Beijing carries out no espionage activities in Germany. It accused Berlin of trying to “manipulate the image of China and defame China”.

On the same day, however, the United Kingdom announced that it had arrested two men on suspicion of providing “prejudicial information” to Beijing.

The series of arrests comes shortly after Chancellor Olaf Scholz visited China to discuss economic relations and to push for Beijing to drop its support for Russia and its invasion of Ukraine.

Berlin has warned recently about increasing attempts by Moscow and Beijing to secure political and economic influence, and German intelligence agencies have called for broader powers.

In reaction to Jian G’s arrest, MEPs called for the European Parliament to accelerate a continuing probe into foreign influence in a bid to guard against interference in early June’s vote.

“We demand preliminary results before the elections,” said Green MEP Terry Reintke. “Autocracies like China and Russia are actively trying to undermine our democracies in Europe.”

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