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Far-right German leader’s aide arrested on charges of spying for China

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Jian G, an aide of a far-right Member of the European Parliament, was arrested by the German police on spying charges for China late Monday, Al Jazeera reported.

The prosecutors announced on Tuesday that Jian G is believed to have repeatedly passed information on the workings of the European Parliament to China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS).

The arrest has provoked anger in Beijing while also spurring warnings in Europe that “democracy is under threat” ahead of EU elections in June.

The German authorities did not specify which politician employed the arrested man. However, the media reported that the German national was an aide to Maximilian Krah.

The Member of Parliament (MEP) is the lead candidate for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party for the upcoming European Parliament election.

Jian G was arrested in Dresden late on Monday and his apartment was searched, prosecutors said.

As well as reporting on negotiations and decisions of the European Parliament in January, he also allegedly spied on Chinese opposition figures in Germany.

Berlin’s interior minister, Nancy Faeser, said the spying allegations were “extremely serious.”

“If it is confirmed that there was spying for Chinese intelligence from inside the European Parliament, then that is an attack from inside on European democracy,” she declared in a statement.

“Anyone who employs such a staff member also carries responsibility,” she added. “This case must be cleared up precisely. All the connections and background must be illuminated.”

Media reports have linked Krah to a Russian scheme to influence the vote that was uncovered by Czech intelligence earlier this month. He was also questioned by the FBI in January over suspicion that he was receiving money from Kremlin agents, Al Jazeera reported.

The AfD said in a short statement that the arrest was “very disturbing”.

“As we have no further information on the case, we must wait for further investigations by federal prosecutors,” said party’s spokesman Michael Pfalzgraf.

However, China’s foreign ministry has dismissed the reported arrest, accusing unnamed forces of efforts to smear Beijing and wreck bilateral relations.

“The intention of this kind of hype is very obvious…it is to smear and suppress China and to destroy the atmosphere of cooperation between China and Europe,” a spokesman said.

The reports of Jian G’s detainment came hours after Germany arrested three others accused of spying for MSS.

Regarding that incident, the Chinese embassy in Berlin declared that Beijing carries out “no espionage activities” in Germany. It accused Berlin of trying to “manipulate the image of China and defame China”.

On the same day, however, the United Kingdom also announced the arrest of two men on suspicion of providing “prejudicial information” to Beijing.

The series of arrests comes shortly after Chancellor Olaf Scholz visited China to discuss economic relations and to push for Beijing to drop its support for Russia and its invasion of Ukraine.

Berlin has warned recently about increasing attempts by Moscow and Beijing to secure political and economic influence, and German intelligence agencies have called for broader powers, as reported by Al Jazeera.

In reaction to Jian G’s arrest, the German MEPs called for the European Parliament to accelerate a continuing probe into foreign influence in a bid to guard against interference in early June’s vote.

“We demand preliminary results before the elections,” said Green MEP Terry Reintke. “Autocracies like China and Russia are actively trying to undermine our democracies in Europe.”