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50 Chinese students have left the UK in three years after being warned by spy chiefs | Espionage


Fifty Chinese students have left Britain in the past three years after Britain tightened its procedures to prevent the theft of confidential academic research, the head MI5 said in a speech about the threat of espionage from Beijing.

Ken McCallum, the spy agency’s director-general, also said MI5 had “more than doubled” its efforts against Chinese activity over the same time period in an unprecedented joint warning with its counterpart in FBI.

Britain’s spy chief said the “most transformative challenge” MI5 faced came from the “increasingly authoritarian Chinese Communist Party” which is targeting industrial secrets and intellectual property in the West.

Western universities have been targeted by the Chinese state, McCallum said, and since the reform of the Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS), “more than 50” students linked to the People’s Liberation Army have left the UK.

The scheme, run by the British government, applies to international students from China and other countries subject to immigration control that wish to engage in research on military technology or other subjects considered sensitive.

The spy chief did not give more details about the Chinese students who left, some of the 150,000 studying in the UK, but it was part of a wider warning about Beijing’s spying activities, aimed primarily at universities, the military and high-tech businesses. and related organizations.

McCallum stood by Christopher Wray, the director of the US FBI, who warned that “we see consistently that it is the Chinese government that poses the greatest long-term threat to our economic and national security.”

It was a threat that was “more serious” than “even many savvy business people realize,” Ray said. The US agency opened one China-related investigation every 12 hours, a rate of activity that has increased 1,300% over the past seven years, the FBI chief added.

The head of MI5 said the agency was carrying out “seven times” more China-related investigations than it did in 2018, reflecting both the growing threat and increased focus on hostile activity from Beijing. McCallum said MI5 plans to double its China-related activities over the next three years.

Western spy services have been rapidly shifting their focus from Islamist terrorism since the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2019 to hostile state activity, primarily from China and Russia.

Although the invasion of Ukraine has highlighted the security threat posed by Russia, US and UK agencies want to remain focused on Beijing. “The Chinese government is bent on stealing your technology … and using it to undermine your business and dominate your market,” Ray said.

McCallum added that “the scale of China’s ambitions is huge” and that Beijing has focused on “core technology areas where it would otherwise be impossible for China to catch up with the West by 2050”. Artificial intelligence was a particular area of ​​interest for China, the head of the domestic spy agency added.

China’s efforts to interfere in political processes in the West have not been as extensive as its economic efforts, spy chiefs said. But McCallum said there were “increasing rates” of attempted political interference in the UK, referring to the case of Christine Lee, who MI5 said tried to improperly influence MPs and colleagues on behalf of the Communist Party..

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