German AfD Lawmaker to Fire Aide Accused of Spying for China

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(Bloomberg) -- The Alternative for Germany’s lead candidate in the European Parliament elections said he’ll fire an assistant accused of spying for China and vowed to continue campaigning for the far-right party ahead of the June vote.

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Maximilian Krah told reporters in Berlin that he will immediately dismiss the aide, a German citizen the federal prosecutor named as Jian G., after the man was taken into custody late Tuesday. Chancellor Olaf Scholz called the case “very, very, very worrying.”

Krah denied any personal wrongdoing and said he’s focused on trying to divert attention back to European issues and away from China. He won’t take part in an AfD election event on Saturday in Baden-Wuerttemberg with party leaders Alice Weidel and Tino Chrupalla as planned but will remain the party’s lead candidate, he added.

“I’m very interested in clearing things up and will try to find out what the concrete allegations are,” Krah said. “The election campaign is of course being terribly overshadowed by this business.”

The allegations of a Chinese spy in their ranks are only the latest setback for the AfD, which had been one of the main beneficiaries of eroding support for Scholz’s three-party ruling coalition.

Petr Bystron — the AfD’s number-two candidate for the European elections after Krah — has denied taking money from a pro-Russia media outlet following reports of links to the organization.

Bjoern Hoecke, the head of the party in the eastern state of Thuringia, is on trial for using a Nazi slogan at a rally, and the party has also been damaged by revelations about a meeting where mass deportations were discussed that echoed policies pursued by Adolf Hitler.

Asked about alleged Chinese spying at a news conference Wednesday in Berlin, Scholz said that Germany “cannot accept espionage against us, regardless of which country it comes from.”

“That is why it must be detected, and those who are responsible must be arrested and brought to justice,” Scholz said alongside UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, whose country has also recently experienced allegations of spying by China.

Nationwide support for the AfD has dwindled from a peak of 23% around the turn of the year, but it’s still in second place in most polls ahead of Scholz’s Social Democrats. The main opposition conservatives lead on around 30%, with the next federal election due by the fall of 2025.

The AfD is ahead in three eastern German regions holding elections in September, though it’s unlikely to get into government as all other parties say they will refuse to join it in coalition.

Read More: Germany Arrests Three Suspected of Spying for Chinese State

Weidel and Chrupalla issued a joint statement Wednesday in which they said they had met with with Krah and discussed “the serious allegations of espionage against his employee and the associated damage to his reputation.”

“Any influence exerted by foreign states through espionage, as well as attempts to buy opinions and positions, must be investigated and prevented with the utmost severity,” they added.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman on Tuesday condemned what he called the “hyping up” of spy allegations in Germany. Such reports were intended to smear China, he said at a regular press briefing in Beijing, also dismissing the UK claims as misinformation.

--With assistance from Karin Matussek and Zoe Schneeweiss.

(Updates with Scholz comments starting in second paragraph)

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