Germany suspects AfD staffer in EU parliament of spying for China

By Rachel More and Sarah Marsh

BERLIN (Reuters) -An aide to a member of the European Parliament for the far-right Alternative for Germany has been arrested in Germany on suspicion of "especially severe" espionage for China, the latest in a spate of such arrests across Europe.

Prosecutors named him as Jian G. in a statement on Tuesday and accused him of passing information about discussions in the European Union legislature to Chinese intelligence.

The website of Maximilian Krah, the AfD's top candidate in June's election to the assembly, lists Jian Guo as one of his assistants. Krah said he learned of Guo's arrest from the media and would stop working with him if the charges were proven.

Anxiety about alleged Chinese spying has mounted across Western Europe in recent months.

Three German nationals were arrested on Monday on suspicion of handing over technology with military applications.

The same day, two men were charged in Britain with spying for China, including one reported to have worked as parliamentary researcher for a prominent lawmaker in the governing Conservative Party.

And on March 25, the U.S. and Britain accused Beijing of cyberespionage against millions of people including lawmakers, academics and journalists, as well as companies such as defence contractors.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told a briefing that reports of Chinese espionage in Europe were "hype" and "intended to discredit and suppress China".

The aide, who lived in Brussels and the German city of Dresden, also spied on Chinese opposition figures in Germany, prosecutors said. He was arrested in Dresden on Monday and his apartments were searched.

"He is accused of an especially severe case of working for a foreign secret service," the statement said.

AfD co-leader Tino Chrupalla called the arrest "very disturbing" and said Krah was en route to Berlin to discuss the case, with a statement expected by Wednesday morning.

Two weeks ago, the Czech newspaper Denik Na and the German magazine Der Spiegel reported that the AfD's second most important candidate in the European Parliament election, German lawmaker Petr Bystron, had received money from a pro-Russian media site. The AfD said Bystron denied the allegation.

Konstantin von Notz, who heads the parliamentary committee supervising Germany's intelligence services, said these were not merely individual cases but pointed to a broader AfD problem.

"The AfD is a party of dictatorships," he said. "They don't try to hide their contempt for our democracy and rule of law. And that clearly makes their politicians susceptible to being influenced and directed by China and Russia."


Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said that if the charges were proven, it was "an attack on European democracy from within", noting that Germany's security services had massively increased counter-espionage due to Russian hybrid threats and Chinese snooping.

A year ago, Krah had rejected allegations that his aide was lobbying for China as slander against himself.

"It is about a staffer born in China," he wrote on the social media platform X. "He is a German citizen, AfD member, studied in Dresden and speaks fluent German and English. There is a lot of lying going on."

Krah has, over the years, advocated deeper links with China.

"The deepening of economic, technological and trade cooperation between China and Germany is indispensable for Germany's development," he was quoted as saying by the Global Times in 2022. "The anti-China forces in Germany do not represent the interests of Germany."

The Chinese embassy in Germany, in an emailed statement, said in recent years such espionage allegations had often appeared in German and European media.

The intention of such exaggeration is obvious and is due to a "Cold War mindset" to poison the atmosphere for cooperation between China and Germany or Europe, the statement said.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz visited China last week to improve economic relations with Germany's biggest trade partner and address differences such as China's support for Russia.

(Reporting by Rachel More, Sarah Marsh, Miranda Murray, Andreas Rinke, Holger Hansen and Thomas Escritt in Berlin, Sabine Siebold in Brussels, Liz Lee in Beijing, writing by Emma-Victoria Farr; Editing by Angus MacSwan, Kevin Liffey and Bill Berkrot)