A Times source tells Guido that they are surprised that the rest of the media is not naming Chris Cash as the person arrested on suspicion of spying for the Chinese. They believe there is a strong public interest case for naming the person who had access to parliamentarians, civil servants and think-tankers active on China issues.
Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader sanctioned by China, nailed it: “It’s a remarkably dangerous situation. This is a guy who allegedly spies on behalf of the Chinese government in the place where decisions are made and sensitive information is transferred. It is vitally important that he is named because many people who came into contact with this individual will be unaware that he has been arrested on suspicion of espionage. There is a clear public interest.”
Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee Alicia Kearns’ ally told The Times defensively “Preposterous suggestions that Alicia should have breached all police and intelligence requests not to discuss this case could only come from individuals with zero understanding of legal investigations or intelligence work.” Spooks like to do things secretly.
Cash issued a statement via the law firm Birnberg Peirce; “I feel forced to respond to the media accusations that I am a ‘Chinese spy’. It is wrong that I should be obliged to make any form of public comment on the misreporting that has taken place. However, given what has been reported, it is vital that it is known that I am completely innocent. I have spent my career to date trying to educate others about the challenge and threats presented by the Chinese Communist Party. To do what has been claimed against me in extravagant news reporting would be against everything I stand for.” Even if he isn’t charged or is found innocent, there is still a public interest in open justice. People getting arrested in secret, unreported by the press, is a hallmark of police states.
Guido didn’t name Chris Cash last night because we assumed there must be a good reason papers were holding back. In retrospect we made a mistake.
Whilst James Cleverly is out in Beijing defending his diplomatic efforts to the media and China hawks alike, Alicia Kearns has joined those calling for the government to take a tougher line on Taiwan. Speaking to Times Radio, the chair of the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee said:
“I absolutely think he should go to Taiwan. And our report today calls for more cooperation with Taiwan, because working with Taiwan, standing by their right to self-determination and the rule of law, that is not a threat to the Chinese Communist Party… I visited Taiwan back in December with my committee. The Chinese Communist Party were absolutely furious. But the reality is we cannot allow them to determine who we have relations with.”
Although Kearns stopped short of calling for Rishi to make the trip, Guido notes one former Prime Minister wasn’t cowed by the CCP…
The Charity Commission has removed the trustees of the Islamic Centre of England and appointed an interim manager due to serious concerns over the governance and legal compliance of the charity.
Responding to the trustee sheikh-down, Security Minister Tom Tugendhat outlined his support:
“I have warned about Iranian interference in the UK and welcome the decision,” while Alicia Kearns hoped “the inquiry will conclude that the IRGC has no place operating on British soil.”
Calls for an investigation were prompted by allegations that the British charity, run by a representative of Iran’s supreme leader, hosted speakers that have called for ‘academic jihad’, reasoned that death was a ‘compassionate’ sentence for gay people, and referred to women demonstrating in Iran by moving their hijabs as ‘soldiers of Satan’ spreading ‘poison’. Charming.
The Jewish Chronicle reported that a trustee of Manchester’s Islamic Cultural Centre, Farrokh Sekaleshfar, was a keynote speaker at an event in Iran in 2020 where the audience chanted ‘death to England’. They say charity begins at home…
As predicted, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is throwing its toys out the pram over Liz Truss’s upcoming visit to Taiwan. Speaking to Andrew Marr on LBC last night, CCP media spokesman Victor Gao claimed Truss’s trip next week risks causing “mortal wounds to China-UK relations”, and somehow even escalates tensions “to the point of no return”. Just as they said of Pelosi’s trip…
Gao said the trip will “make it more likely that China will exercise jurisdiction over Taiwan sooner rather than later”, adding:
“Her proposed visit to Taiwan in her official capacity will only achieve one goal: that is to further alienate relations between China and Britain, hurting the fundamental interest of the British people.
[Truss should] pay attention to [how] she conducts herself, because she does not want to inflict mortal wounds to China-UK relations”.
The Chinese communists aren’t the only ones appalled at a former PM daring to set foot on Taiwanese soil. Alicia Kearns, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, has also attacked Truss for making the trip, claiming “the trip is performative, not substantive“, and “the worst kind of example of Instagram diplomacy“. A spokesperson for Truss immediately fired back:
“The former Prime Minister has been invited to visit by the Taiwan government. They are better placed to know what is in the interests of the Taiwanese people than the MP for Rutland… Alicia Kearns should apologise for misusing her position as a select committee chair to engage in petty political attacks.”
Unsurprisingly, Downing Street are keeping out of it…
Iain Duncan Smith has slammed Rishi Sunak for using his G20 visit to water down Liz’s hardline position on China. Speaking to the travelling press pack, Rishi labelled China a “systematic threat” before correcting himself to “systematic challenge”. He did go on, however, to admit it is the “biggest state-based threat to our economic security”. This marks a lowering of the temperature compared to Truss’s plan to elevate China’s formal status to ‘threat’…
Rishi also refused to follow in Liz’s wake on the issue of sending arms to Taiwan. His predecessor vowed she would do so, with Rishi now promising to “consider all these things as part of the refresh of the integrated review.” Not a refusal, just less hawkish language.
China-hawk-in-chief Iain Duncan Smith isn’t happy. He told Politico:
“What more evidence does [Sunak] need that they are threatening our very values and the way we live our lives?”
“We’ve seen the assault in Manchester and ad hoc Chinese police stations trying to coerce Chinese citizens back into China by bullying them and threatening them.”
“This is a cop-out. The saddest part of this is that President Xi Jinping will see this about-turn as a sign of weakness by the PM.”
Newly-elected Foreign Affairs Committee chair Alicia Kearns is less upset, however, arguing that redesignating China’s threat status was merely a Truss PR stunt that would have changed little.
“Changing the designation of China would have rendered us an outlier amongst our Five Eyes partners and risked distraction from developing a more strategic approach.”
Meanwhile the main news overnight is that No. 10 released a photo of Rishi glaring at Lavrov. Very intimidating…