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‘Countries are now forced to confront it’: Rise in Chinese espionage arrests alarms Europe

As China’s president, Xi Jinping, arrived in Serbia for the second leg of his European tour, authorities across the continent were grappling with a wave of allegations about Chinese spying.

On Tuesday, meanwhile, the UK prime minister, Rishi Sunak, revealed that a “malign actor” had compromised British military payroll records, with reports pointing the finger at China.

In one case, three German citizens were arrested under suspicion of arranging to transfer information about sensitive technology to China. In the other case, a man named as Jian G, who worked for a German far-right member of the European parliament, was arrested under suspicion of espionage. Maximilian Krah, the Alternative for German (AfD) MEP who Jian G worked for, has denied any personal wrongdoing.

And in Belgium, authorities opened a criminal investigation into the far-right politician Frank Creyelman in January, after an investigation by the Financial Times, Der Spiegel and Le Monde alleged that he had been used as a Chinese intelligence asset for several years.

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Experts say the recent increase in arrests and investigations reflects a changing mood in Europe towards Chinese threats.

Experts say Chinese spies have three main priorities: to shape political and economic trends in line with China’s interests; gather information on sensitive industries; and to monitor the diaspora populations, particularly minority groups such as Tibetans, Uyghurs and Hongkongers.

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