BY SIMON VEAZEY
The UK has expelled three Chinese spies who were posing as journalists, according to a report by the Telegraph that cites an unnamed senior government official.
The report comes the day after the UK broadcast regulator Ofcom revoked the licence of a Chinese television network, which was swiftly followed by Beijing lodging an official complaint over the BBC’s reporting on the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, also known as the novel coronavirus.
According to a Telegraph report, a senior government source said that the three spies worked for three different Chinese media agencies, which were not named.
They were forced to return to China after MI5 uncovered their true identities and that they were intelligence officers for Beijing’s Ministry of State Security, according to the Telegraph.
It has not been able to confirm the claims made in the report. The Home Office has not responded to a request for comment.
It is not clear when the spies were expelled.
Concerns over CCP influence and espionage in the UK have been growing in recent years, in particular among some backbench Conservative MPs.
The government is expected to update laws on espionage in the late spring.
Broadcast regulator Ofcom on Thursday revoked the licence for China Global Television Network (CGTN) on the grounds that the station is “controlled by a body which is ultimately controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.” UK broadcasting laws do not allow licences for media controlled by political bodies.
Within hours, Beijing’s officials lodged a complaint with the BBC, accusing it of “fake news” in its reporting on how the CCP had covered-up the pandemic and the origins of the CCP virus.
And on Friday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin slammed the Ofcom ruling as “politicising the issue on a technical point” and warned that China reserves the right to make a “necessary response”.
According to human rights NGO Safeguard Defenders, CGTN and its Chinese-language counterpart CCTV have, on numerous occasions, aired recordings of “forced confessions” from individuals held by the state under duress. The NGO said that broadcasting of these materials amounts to “known and intentional distortion of facts and clear lies,” in violation of Ofcom’s rules on impartiality and accuracy.
British ex-journalist Peter Humphrey, one of the four forced confessions victims the NGO represents, on Thursday said that Ofcom’s “unprecedented” move was a “moment of triumph.”
Humphrey, who ran a corporate due diligence firm in China, was held by the CCP for allegedly buying and selling personal data, allegations he denies. He said Chinese state police drugged him, tied him to a metal chair in a small cage, and forced him to read from a pre-written statement to “confess.”
Humphrey and his wife, Yingzeng Yu, a Chinese-born U.S. citizen, spent two years in a Chinese prison after their company was hired by GlaxoSmithKline to investigate a security breach. They became collateral damage when the Chinese authorities announced it was investigating GSK’s alleged bribery practices. “During that time, we were subjected twice to forced confession appearances on Chinese television, which were broadcast by CGTN and CCTV, and those two broadcasters are actively involved in extracting and packaging that material,” When the couple saw the video after their release, they were shocked by the way CGTN had edited the footage in a way that “completely misrepresented the situation.”