Espionage Arrests Hint at Dark Side of China-Europe Competition

(Bloomberg) -- Police in Dresden detained an employee of Maximilian Krah, the far-right AfD’s lead candidate in the European Parliament elections, on suspicions he was spying for China.

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Federal prosecutors suspect the man, whom they identified as Jian G., of working for the Chinese secret service, citing intelligence reports from the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution in a statement on Tuesday.

The prosecutors said they suspect him of repeatedly passing on information about negotiations and decisions in the European Parliament to his intelligence service client. They also accuse him of spying on Chinese opposition members in Germany.

“Espionage for a foreign state is a serious accusation,” Krah posted on X, naming the employee. “If the allegations prove to be true, this would result in the immediate termination of his employment.”

Germany’s Alternative for Germany is already under legal pressure, with Bjoern Hoecke, the head of the party in the eastern state of Thuringia, currently standing trial for using a Nazi slogan at a rally. Another AfD lawmaker, Petr Bystron, has denied taking money from a pro-Russia media outlet following reports of links to the organization.

Support for the AfD has dwindled ahead of the June European election, with the party on track to get 18.5% of the vote, according to a Monday poll by Insa. In July last year, AfD was polling at 23%.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said his nation opposed the “hyping up” of spy allegations in Germany, at a regular press briefing in Beijing on Tuesday. Such reports were intended to smear China, he added, also dismissing similar claims in the UK as misinformation.

A spokesperson for the European Parliament said that the man has been suspended.

“If it is confirmed that there has been spying for Chinese intelligence services from inside the European Parliament then this is an attack from within on European democracy,” German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said in an emailed statement on Tuesday. “All connections and backgrounds must be investigated.”

G. will be brought before the investigating judge of the Federal Court of Justice, who will decide on the issuing of an arrest warrant and the execution of pre-trial detention, the prosecutors said.

Hoecke, who was standing trial on Tuesday, said in court that he did nothing wrong. “I’m totally innocent,” he said in his defense.

The new investigation follows the arrest on Monday of two men and a woman suspected of working for Chinese state security to acquire details of ship-engine technology and buy a special laser without export authorization. It’s the latest in a spate of espionage cases to come to light in Germany in recent days after two Russian-German citizens were taken into custody last week accused of spying for Russia and membership of a terror group planning acts of sabotage.

--With assistance from Laura Malsch and James Mayger.

(Updates with Krah comment in the fourth paragraph.)

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