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Hong Kong leader defends foreign trade offices after UK spying arrests

By AFP

May 14, 2024 07:27 PM


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Hong Kong's leader on Tuesday defended its foreign trade offices and said he had little recollection of a man accused by Britain of spying for the Chinese city after a photograph emerged seeming to show the two together.

British authorities charged three men on Monday with foreign interference and assisting Hong Kong's intelligence service, under the UK's 2023 National Security Act.

Among the accused was an office manager at the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office (ETO) in London, the Hong Kong government confirmed.

The Chinese finance hub has its own trade policies distinct from mainland China and does not operate consulates abroad.

Hong Kong leader John Lee on Tuesday defended the work of ETOs as crucial for promoting economic and cultural exchanges, adding that he urged all governments to respect the "rightful duties of our ETO officers in their economies".

A photograph of a group of university graduates published by the South China Morning Post newspaper in 2002 included a man with the same name as the accused ETO office manager, Chung Biu Yuen, appearing alongside Lee.

Lee confirmed on Tuesday that he was one of the graduates in the picture, which has circulated online.

The accused man "is reportedly in the photo as well. My recollection of this person is limited to this photo," Lee told reporters.

The photo showed eight Hong Kong police officers who graduated from a management programme at Charles Sturt University in Australia, according to a 2002 South China Morning Post article.

Lee holds a master's degree of public policy and administration from Charles Sturt University, according to his official biography.

China's top diplomat in Hong Kong strongly condemned Britain on Monday for "trumping up charges, arbitrarily arresting Chinese citizens and slandering the Hong Kong government".

Lee, a former police officer and security chief, said Tuesday he is awaiting reply after demanding further details about the case from the British consulate general in Hong Kong.

"Any attempt to make unwarranted allegation against the (Hong Kong) government is unacceptable," he said.

Britain has repeatedly denounced the treatment of pro-democracy campaigners in its former colony, and launched a visa scheme to allow Hong Kong residents to come to the UK.

As a result, it has become a refuge for dissidents, including veteran unionist Christopher Mung and pro-democracy activist Finn Lau.

Hong Kong police last year issued a wanted list of eight overseas activists that included Mung and Lau.


AFP


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