25 May 2024
0 4 mins 1 mth

BERLIN — German authorities have detained the aide of a far-right European lawmaker on suspicion of spying for China in the city of Dresden, prosecutors said in a statement. The European Parliament said Tuesday that it has suspended the person in question “with immediate effect.”

The aide was arrested Monday amid mounting concern in Europe over Chinese espionage activity. Less than 24 hours earlier, three other German nationals were detained on suspicion of having worked for a Chinese intelligence service. Britain also charged two men on Monday with spying for China.

According to German prosecutors, the suspect repeatedly passed on information about negotiations and decisions in the European Parliament to his intelligence client in January this year.

“He also spied on Chinese opposition figures in Germany for the intelligence service,” the statement said.

Maximilian Krah, a member of the European Parliament for the German far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party since 2019, later confirmed media reports that the suspect was his employee.

“I learned about the arrest of the member of my staff, Jian Guo, from the press this morning,” Krah said in a statement. “I don’t have any additional information. Spying for a foreign state is a serious accusation. If the allegations prove true, it will result in the immediate termination of Mr. Guo’s employment with me.”

A spokesperson for the AfD described reports of the arrest as very disturbing.

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser called for the “extremely serious” allegations to be “rigorously cleared up.”

“If it is confirmed that spying for Chinese intelligence services happened from in the European Parliament, then that is an attack on European democracy from within,” she said.

The accusation of spying on members of the Chinese opposition in Germany is just as serious, Faeser said, adding that “anyone who employs such a staff member also bears the responsibility for them.”

The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Tuesday described the “so-called Chinese espionage activities” reported in Germany and the United Kingdom as “hype.”

“We urge relevant parties to stop spreading fake news about this so-called ‘Chinese espionage threat’ and stop this anti-China political manipulation and slander,” said spokesman Wang Wenbin.

In Germany, the arrest sparked renewed criticism of Krah — even from his own party ranks.

“He has been a problem for the delegation for the last five years with his offbeat attitude toward China, Russia, the USA, Israel, women and much more,” tweeted Sylvia Limmer, Krah’s AfD colleague in the E.U. Parliament.

Konstantin von Notz, a German Greens party lawmaker, said the arrest of Krah’s employee is further evidence of the far-right AfD’s authoritarian tendencies.

“[The AfD] makes no secret of its contempt for our democracy and our constitutional state. And that obviously makes their politicians very vulnerable to influence and control from China and Russia,” von Notz told German media outlet RND.

Earlier this month, the AfD was accused in Parliament of boosting Russian propaganda and undermining German security following reports of a Russian disinformation campaign via the pro-Russian platform Voice of Europe. Interviews with Krah and fellow AfD politicians Petr Bystron had been published on the site.

German media also reported last week that Krah was grilled by the FBI in December over possible payments from pro-Russian patrons — accusations that Krah characterized as “absurd and fabricated.”

Beatriz Rios in Brussels and Lily Kuo in Taipei contributed to this report.

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