China says it cracked British spy operation on Chinese soil

China’s top spy agency claims to have cracked an espionage case involving an agent working for the United Kingdom‘s Secret Intelligence Service, also known as MI6.

The State Security Ministry in Beijing said in a social media post on Monday that the spying case involved a British foreign national surnamed Huang, who had been recruited and trained by MI6, although it was not disclosed when the relationship was uncovered.

China’s spy agency has been strategically disclosing past and present examples of foreign espionage in an effort to caution the Chinese public. The new awareness campaign is in line with President Xi Jinping‘s vision of a highly securitized state.

The latest incident further highlights ongoing tensions between Beijing and Western intelligence services, with cases continuing to emerge in both camps. The CIA recently said that it had made progress in reestablishing a network of agents in China.

The State Security Ministry said M16 had trained and equipped Huang—the head of an overseas consultancy—for intelligence-gathering operations inside China, according to its post on the widely used do-everything app WeChat. Huang’s activities were eventually uncovered, and legal action was taken against him.

Neither the ministry nor Chinese state media that covered the case disclosed when Huang was detained, but an investigation was said to be ongoing.

In its statement, the ministry said MI6 developed ties with Huang in 2015. British spies provided him with professional intelligence training in the U.K. and other locations, it said.

Chinese counterintelligence authorities, after conducting a thorough investigation, “promptly discovered evidence of Huang’s involvement in espionage activities,” leading to “criminal coercive measures” against him, the post said.

Huang’s nationality was not disclosed.

Chinese Police Outside Palace of People
Chinese police officers guard the Great Hall of the People during the Third Belt and Road Forum on October 18, 2023, in Beijing, China. China’s State Security Ministry, its top spy agency, said it cracked an espionage case involving an agent recruited by Britain’s MI6 intelligence service.
Contributor/GC Images/Getty Images Entertainment

Last September, British authorities confirmed the arrests in March of two individuals for alleged breaches of the Official Secrets Act. One was a senior parliamentary researcher who had worked closely with British lawmakers on China policymaking.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry dismissed the allegations that the men were spying for Beijing as “entirely groundless.”

The Global Times, the nationalist Chinese state-run tabloid, said the intelligence activities by MI6 and the CIA were part of a broader strategy to counter China’s influence.

A national security expert quoted in the newspaper on Monday described China’s confrontation with the West as encompassing various fields, including economics, military, science and technology, and trade.

China has developed a cohesive approach to combating outside threats to national security, especially espionage, the Global Times reported, pointing to the country’s Counter-Espionage Law, revised—and toughened— last July.

Birtain’s Foreign Office did not immediately respond to Newsweek‘s written request for comment by the time of publication.