A far-right German EU lawmaker's aide is arrested on suspicion of spying for China

BERLIN (AP) — A man who works for a prominent German far-right lawmaker in the European Parliament has been arrested on suspicion of spying for China, authorities said Tuesday. The detention came less than 24 hours after three people were arrested for spying for China in a separate German case.

The suspect was arrested Monday in the eastern German city of Dresden, federal prosecutors said in a statement. They said that he has worked for a German lawmaker in the European Union's legislature since 2019.

The German national is accused of working for a Chinese intelligence service and of repeatedly passing on information on negotiations and decisions in the European Parliament in January. Prosecutors allege that he also snooped on Chinese dissidents in Germany.

Prosecutors didn't identify the lawmaker, but Maximilian Krah of the far-right Alternative for Germany, who is his party's top candidate in the European Parliament election in early June, said in a statement that he found out about the arrest of employee Jian Guo from the press on Tuesday.

“I do not have further information,” Krah said. He added that “spying activity for a foreign state is a serious allegation” which, if proven, would lead to the employee's immediate dismissal.

German 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,” Faeser said 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.”

News of the arrest came a day after three Germans suspected of spying for China and arranging to transfer information on technology with potential military uses were arrested in a separate case.

Also on Monday, British prosecutors said a former researcher working in the U.K. Parliament and another man were charged with spying for China.

Asked in Beijing about the latest arrest in Germany, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said that “the recent reports in Europe about Chinese spying are all hyping up with an aim to smear and suppress China.”

Beijing urges "the relevant parties to stop spreading disinformation about China’s spy threat and stop political manipulation and malicious smears against China,” he added.

A week ago, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz met China's top leaders in Beijing at the end of a three-day trip to the country.

In a strategy for relations with China released last year, the German government pointed to a “systemic rivalry” with the Asian power and a need to reduce risks of economic dependency, but highlighted its desire to work with Beijing on challenges such as climate change and to maintain strong trade ties.

That document pledged “decisive action" to counter Chinese espionage activities.

Krah's Alternative for Germany, or AfD, has been polling strongly in Germany in recent months as discontent is high with Scholz's three-party government. It has long been criticized as having Russia-friendly positions.

“AfD is jeopardizing the security of Germany and Europe” by letting itself be used by autocrats, said Katarina Barley, a European Parliament vice president who is the lead candidate of Scholz's center-left Social Democrats in the upcoming election.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping “want a weak Europe and AfD is letting itself be instrumentalized for this aim,” Barley wrote on social network X.

AfD's co-leader, Tino Chrupalla, told reporters in Berlin that Krah was on his way to the German capital.

“We will sit down with him this evening or tomorrow morning at the latest," he said. “We of course see it as absolutely worrying that an employee was arrested.”

04/23/2024 14:29 -0400

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