China furious at arrest of ‘UK spies’

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Published Time: 14.05.2024 - 08:40:15 Modified Time: 14.05.2024 - 08:40:15

The country’s London embassy said they ‘strongly condemn the UK’s unwarranted accusation’ A Border Force officer and a Home Office immigration official were among three people charged on Monday with spying for Hong Kong

The country’s London embassy said they ‘strongly condemn the UK’s unwarranted accusation’

A Border Force officer and a Home Office immigration official were among three people charged on Monday with spying for Hong Kong.

Chi Leung Wai, 38, Matthew Trickett, 37, and Chung Biu Yuen, 63, are accused of spying on pro-democracy activists living in the UK.

China reacted angrily to the charges. Its London embassy said: “We strongly condemn the UK’s unwarranted accusation against the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government.”

Mr Wai, also known as Peter, works at Heathrow Airport for Border Force UK, and is alleged to have carried out surveillance and “hostile” reconnaissance on behalf of the Hong Kong intelligence service. He is also a volunteer special constable with the City of London Police.

Mr Trickett is a Home Office immigration enforcement officer, who had spent six years as a commando in the Royal Marines.

The third man charged, Mr Yuen, is a retired Hong Kong police officer, who is employed as a Hong Kong trade official based in London.

The men were detained following an investigation by counter-terrorism police in which 11 people were arrested under the National Security Act, which was introduced last year to tackle the threat to the UK posed by hostile states.

The Telegraph understands that the Home Office has ordered a review of Border Force and Immigration Enforcement recruitment, vetting and supervision procedures in the wake of the police investigation.

Tom Tugendhat, the security minister, said: “The National Security Act is a game-changer for our ability to crack down on foreign intelligence services and hostile actors. We will not tolerate attempts to threaten, harass or silence people in the UK.

“Our commitment to defending the rights and freedoms we hold dear is absolute. We will continue to put protecting the British people and our national security first.”

The three men were charged with two offences after trying to break into the home of a Hong Kong dissident living in Pontefract in West Yorkshire on May 1.

The trio appeared at a brief hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Monday shortly after the Metropolitan Police said its investigation had been “crucial to disrupting” the spy network.

: Elizabeth Cook/PA

The men were charged with assisting a foreign intelligence service to “undertake information gathering, surveillance and acts of deception” between December 20 last year and May 2. They were also charged with assisting a foreign intelligence service by “forcing entry into a UK residential address”.

Mr Wai, who lives in Staines, Surrey, and is both a UK and Hong Kong national, also runs D5, a security company. On its website, he boasts of “having over 20 years’ experience in the British military, police and private security sector”.

On his Facebook page, he describes himself as a Hong Konger living in the UK, who had joined the Royal Navy after school and then saw active service in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

Mr Trickett, from Maidenhead, Berks, served as a commando in the Royal Marines between 2007 and 2013. He was also formerly employed by the UK Border Force at Heathrow before joining Home Office Immigration Enforcement in February this year. He is also listed as the sole director of MTR Consultancy, which he founded in 2021, and describes himself as a security consultant.

A neighbour described him as “nice and polite” but said he was “out of the country more than he was in it”. The neighbour, who did not wish to be named, said that police had raided Mr Trickett’s flat on May 2, with officers breaking down the door with a battering ram.

Mr Yuen, 63, known also as Billy Yuen, from Dalston, east London, is listed as the office manager for the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in central London. He declined to speak to The Telegraph after returning to his flat following his court appearance. 

Neighbours of Mr Yuen described him as a “model citizen” and expressed astonishment at his arrest, insisting it must have been a “mistake”.

Hong Kong leader John Lee on Tuesday called for full information from British authorities on the arrests of the three men, including Mr Yuen.Mr Lee confirmed that Mr Yuen was a university classmate and he was photographed with him in a group graduation photo from 2002.Mr Lee cited a statement from the Chinese embassy in London, rejecting what it called “the UK’s fabrication of the so-called case and its unwarranted accusation” against the Hong Kong government.

: Andrew Baker

The men were released on bail after District Judge Louisa Cieciora said they must abide by a 10pm to 5am curfew, report weekly to police, not travel abroad and inform police of devices used to access the internet.

A further seven men and a woman arrested in raids in Yorkshire and London have been released without charge.

Commander Dominic Murphy, head of Scotland Yard’s Counter-Terrorism Command, said: “A number of arrests were made and searches carried out across England as part of this investigation. While led from London, the Counter-Terrorism Policing network has been crucial to disrupting this activity and we have worked closely with the Crown Prosecution Service since the start of the investigation.”

A Home Office source said: “We take all cases of potential internal misconduct incredibly seriously, immediate steps are always taken to ensure that risks are managed swiftly. As is normal practice for cases like these we are reviewing our processes.”

: Yui Mok

Since the crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong in 2019, there have been concerns that Beijing is harassing dissidents in the UK.

The Government gave almost three million residents of Hong Kong the right to move to the UK permanently in 2020. The ruling, which represented the biggest opening of the UK borders since the 1948 British Nationality Act, applied to Hong Kongers who held a British National Overseas (BNO) passport.

Dominic Raab, then deputy prime minister, said at the time the UK was honouring its “historic responsibility” to the people of Hong Kong

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