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China hits back at European Union's claim it has 250 spies working in Brussels

South China Morning Post logo South China Morning Post 10/2/2019 Kinling Lo
a close up of a blue wall: The European Union has become the latest to level espionage allegations at China. Photo: EPA-EFE © EPA-EFE The European Union has become the latest to level espionage allegations at China. Photo: EPA-EFE

China has dismissed as "groundless” claims made by the European Union that it has hundreds of spies working in Brussels, the bloc’s de facto capital.

The Chinese mission to the EU issued a statement on Sunday in response to a report published a day earlier on the website of German television company Welt that said EU diplomats and military officials had been warned of "about 250 Chinese and 200 Russian spies” operating in the Belgian city.

The report cited information from the European External Action Service (EEAS), the EU’s diplomatic arm.

"We are deeply shocked by the groundless and unfounded reports,” the mission said on its website. "China always respects the sovereignty of all countries, and does not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.”

Beijing is committed to maintaining healthy and stable ties with the European Union, it said, adding that relevant parties should "treat China and China-EU relations in an objective and fair manner, and not make irresponsible remarks”.

According to the Welt article, most of the spies work either within embassies or local units of companies based in their home nations.

Diplomats were even advised to avoid certain parts of the city, including a popular steakhouse and cafe within walking distance of the headquarters of the European Commission and EEAS.

The EU’s claims are the latest in a wave of espionage allegations made against Beijing. On Friday, the Chinese embassy in Vilnius hit back at what it termed "ridiculous” allegations of spying made by Lithuania.

The Baltic country’s intelligence services last week accused China of recruiting its citizens to engage in espionage activities and influence public opinion on issues such as Tibetan and Taiwanese independence.

"As China’s economic and political ambitions in Lithuania and other Nato and EU countries increase, the activities of Chinese intelligence and security services have become increasingly aggressive,” the agencies said in their annual report.

The former Soviet state has also joined other European countries in expressing concern about the activities of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei.

The head of Lithuania’s State Security Department Darius Jauniskis said last week that his agency was analysing the potential "threat” posed by Huawei, whose technology is being used to build the country’s new 5G network.

On January 11, police in Poland arrested Huawei’s sales director and Polish national Wang Weijing on spying charges. Although security services said the arrest was not linked to Huawei, US intelligence agencies have been warning America’s allies of the company’s alleged links to Beijing.

The US has said Huawei’s equipment could provide back doors into foreign networks for Chinese government spies, though it has yet to produce any evidence to support the allegation, which the Chinese firm has repeatedly denied.

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia. For more SCMP stories, please download our mobile app, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

Copyright (c) 2019. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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