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British PM Rishi Sunak raises ‘strong concerns’ over Chinese interference in UK democracy with Li Qiang


British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in G20 Summit in New
Image Source : PTI British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in G20 Summit in New Delhi

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Sunday said that he raised “very strong concerns” during his meeting with Chinese premier Li Qiang on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in India regarding possible Chinese interference in UK democracy after the arrest of two persons, including a parliament worker on suspicions on spying for Beijing.

Speaking to reporters at the G20 Summit in New Delhi, Sunak said that he raised everal concerns including over “any interference in our parliamentary democracy” in his meeting with Li. 

“With regard to my meeting with Premier Li, what I said very specifically is that I raised a range of different concerns that we have in areas of disagreement. In particular my very strong concerns about any interference in our parliamentary democracy, which is clearly unacceptable,” he said.

He also discussed a range of other issues where both sides had disagreements, calling them as part of UK’s strategy to “protect British values and interest” and align its approach towards China with that of its allies like the US, Australia, Canada and others.

“And actually I think the right thing to do is take the opportunity to engage, to raise concerns specifically, rather than just shouting from the sidelines,” Sunak added.

According to a report by British daily The Sunday Times, two people were arrested on suspicion of spying for China, one of whom was a researcher in the British Parliament. They were arrested under UK’s Official Secrets Act, and released on bail till October.

The arrested parliamentary researcher was also linked to the chairperson of the Sunak government’s foreign affairs committee Alicia Kearns, as per the report. She has so far declined to comment on the matter.

An investigation is being carried out by London Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command, which is tasked to oversee allegations of Official Secrets Act and espionage-related crime. 

Meanwhile, the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), an international cross-party group focused on relations with China, said in a statement posted on X (formerly Twitter) that it was “appalled” at reports of interference at the UK Parliament by “someone acting on behalf of the People’s Republic of China (PRC)”.

“It is for authorities to reveal the name of the person accused, and IPAC is hoping that justice is done expeditiously,” said IPAC. It also noted that democratic governments must seriously consider the threat of foreign interference from China.

(with Reuters inputs)

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