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Hong Kong leader hits out after UK charges three with spying for city

By Lucas Lilieholm, Chris Lau and Jerome Taylor, CNN

Hong Kong (CNN) — Hong Kong’s leader responded on Tuesday after three people were charged by British police for allegedly spying on behalf of the city’s intelligence services.

On Monday, three men appeared in Westminster Magistrates’ court in London charged with national security offenses, including assisting the Hong Kong intelligence service, according to a statement from the city’s Metropolitan Police.

Chi Leung (Peter) Wai, 38, Matthew Trickett, 37, and Chung Biu Yuen, 63, are also accused of foreign interference, the statement said, without specifying who the men were allegedly spying on.

Relations between Hong Kong and its former colonial ruler Britain have soured in recent years following mass pro-democracy protests in the Chinese city in 2019 and 2020.

The British government has criticized Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed crackdown on almost all opposition in the years following the protests, while Hong Kong authorities have bristled at Britain providing a safe haven for pro-democracy leaders sought by the Hong Kong police.

On Tuesday, Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee claimed the British charges against thre three men were a “fabrication.”

“The Chinese side firmly rejects and strongly condemns the UK’s fabrication in the so-called case and its unwarranted accusation against the Hong Kong government,” Lee said, referring directly to a statement from the Chinese Embassy in London that was also issued in response to the charges.

On Monday, the Chinese Embassy statement, strongly condemned what it called the United Kingdom’s “unwarranted accusation against the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government.”

The charges against the three men allege that between December 20, 2023 and May 2, 2024, Yuen, Wai and Trickett agreed to undertake information gathering, surveillance and acts of deception that were likely to materially assist a foreign intelligence service, according to PA media.

Police also alleged that on May 1, the three forced entry into a UK residential address, according to PA.

All three were granted bail but are barred from traveling internationally, with District Judge Louisa Cieciora saying they must abide by a nighttime curfew and report weekly to their local police station.

Hong Kong leader Lee noted in his Tuesday news conference that one of the men charged was the office manager of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in London but did not directly address a question over whether it was involved in surveillance of Hong Kong dissidents in the UK.

Lee, the city’s former security chief, said Hong Kong’s Economic and Trade Office exists to facilitate cultural and economic interactions with people and businesses in the UK and that “Any attempt to make unwarranted accusations against the Hong Kong government is unacceptable.”

The Metropolitan Police said they had charged the men with assisting the foreign intelligence service under the UK National Security Act.

“A number of arrests were made and searches carried out across England as part of this investigation. While led from London, the Counter Terrorism Policing network has been crucial to disrupting this activity and we have worked closely with the Crown Prosecution Service since the start of the investigation,” Commander Dominic Murphy, head of the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command said in the release.

Met Police said the investigation is ongoing but added there is no threat to the wider community.

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