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Aide to far-right German MEP arrested for spying for China

The aide worked for an MEP from Germany's far-right AfD party, which has been battling a series of scandals, including claims that some of its members have links to Russia
The aide worked for an MEP from Germany's far-right AfD party, which has been battling a series of scandals, including claims that some of its members have links to Russia - Copyright AFP Sam Yeh
The aide worked for an MEP from Germany's far-right AfD party, which has been battling a series of scandals, including claims that some of its members have links to Russia - Copyright AFP Sam Yeh
Michelle FITZPATRICK

An aide to a German far-right member of the European Parliament has been arrested on suspicion of spying for China, German prosecutors said Tuesday, deepening concerns about foreign interference ahead of June’s EU elections.

The arrest, coming a day after three other people suspected of spying for China were detained in Germany, sparked an angry reaction from Beijing, which said the allegations were designed to “smear and suppress” China.

It was also a new blow for the far-right party AfD which has been battling a series of scandals, including claims that some of its members have links to Russia. 

The man, identified only as Jian G., stands accused of sharing information about negotiations at European Parliament with a Chinese intelligence service and of spying on Chinese opposition figures in Germany, federal prosecutors said in a statement.

On the website of the European Parliament, Jian Guo is listed as an accredited assistant to MEP Maximilian Krah, the far-right AfD party’s lead candidate in the forthcoming EU-wide elections.

Guo is a German national who has reportedly worked as an aide to Krah in Brussels since 2019.

But prosecutors said the suspect “is an employee of a Chinese secret service”.

“In January 2024, the accused repeatedly passed on information about negotiations and decisions in the European Parliament to his intelligence service client.

“He also spied on Chinese opposition members in Germany for the intelligence service.”

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser called the allegations “very serious” and demanded a thorough investigation.

“If it is confirmed that spying for China is happening from the European parliament, then that is an attack on European democracy from within,” she said.

– Election meddling fears –

The arrest plunges the anti-Islam, anti-immigration AfD into further turmoil after Krah was himself named in a different scandal alleging that some European lawmakers had accepted money to spread pro-Russian positions on a Moscow-financed news website.

Krah, who was named in media reports after the Czech government said it had uncovered a Russian propaganda network, earlier this month acknowledged that he had twice appeared on the “Voice of Europe” website but had “of course not received any money for this”.

AfD lawmaker Petr Bystron also denied accepting money to cooperate with the news site, but the accusations have highlighted worries about potential Russian meddling ahead of the June polls.

The European Greens on Tuesday called on European Parliament president Roberta Metsola to “speed up” the parliament’s investigation into links between MEPs and foreign powers.

“Citizens will vote for the European Parliament in less than seven weeks. They need to be 100 percent sure that the candidates standing in the elections are democratically working for Europe — and not for Russia, China or any other authoritarian regime,” said European Greens lead candidate Bas Eickhout.

– String of spy cases –

Jian G. was arrested in the eastern German city of Dresden on Monday and his homes were searched, prosecutors said.

The accused lives in both Dresden and Brussels, according to broadcasters ARD, RBB and SWR, who broke the news about the arrest.

The AfD said the allegations were “very disturbing”.

“As we have no further information on the case, we must wait for further investigations by federal prosecutors,” party spokesman Michael Pfalzgraf said in a statement.

The latest incident comes after Germany on Monday also arrested three German nationals suspected of spying for China by providing access to secret maritime technology.

China’s embassy in Berlin “firmly” rejected those allegations, according to Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua.

The two cases are not connected, according to German media.

And in Britain on Monday, two men were charged with handing over “articles, notes, documents or information” to China between 2021 and last year.

Police named the men as Christopher Berry, 32, and Christoper Cash, 29, who previously worked at the UK parliament as a researcher.

AFP
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