The United Kingdom is considering increasing background checks on individuals working for the Chinese government and could add China to a new registration scheme that aims to crack down on foreign political influence activities, Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden said in a statement.
The official’s remarks were in response to reports that the Metropolitan Police has arrested two individuals, one of whom worked as a researcher at the Parliament, over accusations of espionage.
The arrest renewed calls among Members of Parliament to take a stricter approach to China.
Senior Conservative Party backbenchers, including former Prime Minister Liz Truss, called on the government to designate China as a threat to the U.K.
The government recently introduced the Foreign Influence Registration Scheme, which requires individuals to register to carry out political influence activities at the behest of a foreign power. Adding China to the “enhanced tier” of FIRS would require organizations with ties with the East Asian nation to submit additional reporting requirements.
The Sunday Times first reported the arrest of a parliamentary researcher under the Official Secrets Act. According to the publication, the researcher has been associated with several Conservative MPs, including Security Minister Tom Tugendhat and Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Alicia Kearns.
Speaking to the House of Commons, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak shared that he warned Chinese Premier Li Qiang at the recent G20 summit that he would not tolerate any attempt at spying.
“I have been emphatically clear in our engagement with China that we will not accept any interference in our democracy and parliamentary system,” Sunak said.