Germany's Scholz sounds alarm over far-right China spy allegations

Reactions after aide of AFD parliamentarian from Brussels has been arrested, accused of spying for China

By Matthias Williams and Thomas Escritt

BERLIN (Reuters) -German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Wednesday allegations that the aide to a prominent far-right politician had been spying for China were "very concerning" and urged more action to root out such cases.

Calling attempts to spy on Germany "unacceptable" wherever they came from, Scholz was speaking alongside British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in Berlin after China spy cases erupted in both countries in the same week.

Germany was in uproar after an aide to a European Parliament member for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party was arrested on Tuesday. He is accused of passing information about discussions in the European Union legislature to Chinese intelligence and spying on the Chinese opposition.

The case has put the AfD on the back foot after it surged to become Germany's second-most popular party ahead of European and local elections this year.

It has also fed wider anxieties over Europe as a target for Chinese and Russian spying operations. Germany had this week arrested three people in a separate case about funnelling sensitive technology to China for military purposes.

The recent arrests "shouldn't make us complacent, but rather spur us to catch those who spy against us and our security in our countries," Scholz said.

"The allegations against the AfD are very worrying," he said, adding he would not comment further in order not to prejudice the legal proceedings.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on Tuesday that reports of Chinese espionage in Europe were "hype" and "intended to discredit and suppress China".

The latest case concerns a person identified by prosecutors only as Jian G., who is accused of passing information about discussions in the European Union legislature to Chinese intelligence and spying on the Chinese opposition.

The website of Maximilian Krah, the AfD's top candidate in June's election to the European assembly, lists Jian Guo as one of his assistants.

Krah said he learned of the arrest from the media and denied personal wrongdoing.


"I am and will remain the top candidate," Krah said. "It is now a matter of focusing the election campaign on European issues again and moving away from this very unpleasant matter."

"It is a very serious accusation. After the arrest warrant was confirmed today, I will sack the employee in question today," he added.

The public prosecutor general's office in the eastern German city of Dresden on Wednesday said it had initiated preliminary investigations to look into whether Krah had received Russian and Chinese payments in his role as a member of the European Parliament.

"The sole purpose of these preliminary investigations currently is to examine whether there is any initial suspicion of criminal behaviour involving bribery of a Member of Parliament," it said.

Scholz visited China only last week for talks with the country's leaders.

Germany has sought to "de-risk" the relationship with its largest trading partner, wary of tethering Germany to the Chinese economy after the invasion of Ukraine exposed Europe's reliance on Russian gas and fuelled a cost-of-living crisis.

In a separate joint statement, AfD leaders Alice Weidel and Tino Chrupalla said Krah was staying away from a party campaign launch in the town of Donaueschingen in southwestern Germany on the weekend in order to limit the damage to the party.

"Any influence by foreign states through espionage, but also attempts to buy opinions and positions, must be investigated and firmly prevented," they added.

A similar scandal hit Britain this week as police charged two men with spying for China, including one reported to have worked as a researcher in Britain's parliament for a prominent lawmaker in the governing Conservative Party.

Sunak declined to go into the details when speaking alongside Scholz.

(Reporting by Matthias Williams, Thomas Escritt, Sarah Marsh, Miranda Murray, Alexander Ratz and Andreas Rinke, Writing by Matthias Williams; Additional writing by Christoph Steitz; Editing by Madeline Chambers, Timothy Heritage, Angus MacSwan and Jonathan Oatis)