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Chinese spies tried to hack my email, says senior Tory

Alicia Kearns says attack was attempt to ‘silence those of us who are outspoken’

By Adam Forrest - Political Correspondent

August 24, 2023

China should be officially deemed a ‘threat’ to the UK, Tory MPs have said

(PA Archive)

Senior Conservative MP Alicia Kearns has revealed that Chinese spies attempted to hack her parliamentary email account.

The Tory chair of the foreign affairs select committee, a leading critic of China, said her account was targeted by hackers a month ago – but the phishing attempt was stopped by Microsoft.

Ms Kearns told The Times that it appeared to be effort by Beijing to “try and silence those of us who are outspoken about its abuses”.

It followed an investigation by the newspaper which claimed a single Chinese spy had used fake LinkedIn profiles to attempt to bribe British officials – including politicians and civil servants – to provide secrets.

Ms Kearns claimed Beijing had “industrialised espionage” and said she feared spies “will keep coming for us and I know they’ll keep coming for me”.

She added: “Our job is to find and expose them and make sure the population understands the sort of attacks we’re facing. You don’t need to be a nuclear scientist to be a target of the Chinese government.”

The select committee chief aslo said she was “absolutely certain that hostile states are tracking me and trying to undermine me and trying to make me feel threatened so that I’m silent about some of those egregious acts they undertake”.

Sir Iain Duncan Smith – another leading China hawk – said foreign secretary James Cleverly should cancel a planned visit to Beijing for talks with the government at the end of the month until security issues were resolved.

The former Tory leader told The Independent: “I cannot understand how the foreign secretary is thinking about going to Beijing when this is still going on. This is yet another case of spying. It’s astonishing. The whole thing is mad.”

Sir Iain added: “We’re not allowed to call them a threat. We have got recognise China as a threat and deal with them according to that. It’s seems we’re still trying to appease and engage and hope they won’t be a threat – and that’s absolute b******s.”

Tory MP Alicia Kearns says she was targeted

(PA Media)

Mr Cleverly is reportedly due to visit China at the end of August in a bid to stabilise tensions between the two countries, with the relationship at its lowest point in decades.

Rishi Sunak has been accused by senior Tories of “kowtowing” to China as he defied calls to reclassify Beijing as a systemic threat to Britain earlier this year.

The PM defended his policy of continuing to engage with China, despite believing that Xi Jinping’s “increasingly authoritarian” regime poses an “epoch-defining challenge” to the global order.

Last month a report by a group of senior MPs said successive governments have failed to grasp the scale of the threat posed by China – warning that Chinese intelligence is “prolifically and aggressively” targeting the UK and its interests.

The Commons intelligence and security committee (ISC) is scathing about the Sunak government’s “completely inadequate” response to the threat of China, saying it had “no strategy” to tackle the problem.


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