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China says foreign consultancy boss caught spying for U.K.'s MI6 intelligence agency

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Beijing — China's spy agency said Monday the head of a foreign consultancy had been found to be spying for Britain's MI6 intelligence service. The Ministry of State Security said in a post on China's WeChat social media platform that Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, known as MI6, used a foreign national with the surname Huang to establish an "intelligence cooperation relationship."

Huang, who headed a foreign consulting agency, "entered China several times under instructions to use their public profile as a cover to collect China-related intelligence for Britain... and seek other personnel whom MI6 could turn," the MSS said in the post.

The statement did not provide further details of Huang's identity or employer, or describe their current condition or whereabouts.

Huang allegedly passed 17 pieces of intelligence, including confidential state secrets, to MI6 before he was identified, according to the MSS. The ministry also claimed he had received "professional intelligence training" in Britain and had used "specialist spying equipment" to send communications.

The MSS said an investigation had "promptly discovered criminal evidence that Huang was engaged in espionage activities, and took criminal coercive measures in accordance with the law."

Britain's embassy in Beijing directed an AFP request to comment to the Foreign Office in London, which did not immediately respond.

China's foreign ministry declined to provide further comment when asked about the case at a regular press briefing.

Espionage allegations impact Western business in China

China and Britain have traded barbs in recent months over allegations of espionage and its resulting impact on national security. Britain's government has warned that Chinese spies are increasingly targeting officials — allegations that Beijing has denied.

A researcher at the British parliament was arrested last year under the Official Secrets Act and subsequently denied spying for Beijing.

China, which has a broad definition of state secrets, has publicized several other alleged spying cases in recent months.

In May, authorities sentenced 78-year-old American citizen John Shing-wan Leung to life in prison for espionage, though Beijing has not provided substantial details of his case.

In October, the MSS published the story of another alleged spy, surnamed Hou, who was accused of sending several classified documents to the U.S.

An image from video aired on China's state-run CCTV network shows authorities carrying out an investigation at the Shanghai office of international consulting firm Capvision Partners, May 9, 2023. Reuters/CCTV

China also conducted raids last year on a string of big-name consulting, research and due diligence firms. Last May, China said it had raided the offices of U.S. consultancy firm Capvision in order to safeguard its "national security and development interests."

Beijing also questioned staff at the Shanghai branch of another American consultancy, Bain, in April, and authorities detained workers and shuttered a Beijing office belonging to U.S.-based due diligence firm Mintz Group in March.

The U.S. government and its chambers of commerce warned that the raids damage investor confidence and the operations of foreign businesses in China.

James Zimmerman, a business lawyer who works in Beijing, told CBS News senior foreign correspondent Elizabeth Palmer in June that the raids had spooked foreign businesses.

Chinese authorities raided 3 firms gathering information on Chinese companies for investors 02:37

"Everything's a threat, you know," Zimmerman said. "Unfortunately, in that kind of environment it's very difficult to operate — when everything is viewed as a national security matter… it looks as if…. anything you do could be considered to be spying."

Zimmerman told CBS News then that some business leaders were beginning to "rewrite their strategic plans just because of the tension" between China and the West, noting that the increase in scrutiny from Chinese authorities "makes it politically very risky for them."

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