Earlier this month, a Chinese spy reportedly tried to enter a private House of Commons meeting with Hong Kong dissidents. The alleged spy claimed to be a lost tourist, and there was a brief stand-off before he quickly left. The area was far from those usually visited by tourists, and some Hongkongers, fearing for their safety, covered their faces during the event.
‘I believe this man was a [Chinese Communist party] informer,’ said Finn Lau, one of two pro-democracy activists at the meeting who have CCP bounties on their heads. ‘This is one of the remotest committee rooms in parliament. And it is on the top floor. It is not a coincidence that a random Chinese tourist was outside the room at the exact right time and was attempting to access the event.’
If the man was a spy, his actions were almost insultingly brazen. However, that should come as no surprise after last week’s scathing condemnation of the government’s China strategy by parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee, which struggled to identify anything that might be remotely described as a coherent policy. The committee said China is engaged in a ‘whole of state’ assault on the UK and concluded that the government had been asleep at the wheel while Chinese spies ‘prolifically and aggressively’ penetrated every sector of the economy. ‘Confusion and obfuscation prevails in Whitehall,’ said the former Tory leader Iain Dun-can Smith when the committee’s findings came out. ‘It is as damning a report on British foreign policy failure as I can remember.’
The government’s muddled and ineffective approach to China is a gift to Keir Starmer’s Labour. And the cannier members on the opposition’s front benches have realised that Labour has been presented with a giant policy vacuum it can fill.