European Parliament worker arrested on suspicion of spying for China

Maximilian Krah, an MEP for the far-Right Alternative for Germany party (AfD) whose aide is suspected of spying for China
Maximilian Krah, an MEP for the far-Right Alternative for Germany party (AfD) whose aide is suspected of spying for China - Ronald Wittek/Shutterstock

German police have arrested an assistant to a senior Alternative for Germany (AfD) MEP on suspicion of spying for China in the latest espionage case to shock Germany.

Jian Guo, a staffer for Maximilian Krah, is suspected of passing sensitive information about the European Parliament to China’s Ministry of State Security.

The alleged spy, identified as Mr Krah’s employee on the European Parliament database, also allegedly spied on Chinese opposition figures.

Mr Guo, who is facing charges of acting as an agent for a foreign state, was arrested in Dresden by police, who also searched a number of apartments linked to the arrest.

He is understood to have lived in both Dresden and Brussels, where the European Parliament is based.

According to the German tabloid Bild, the suspect offered his services to Chinese intelligence services about 10 years ago, but at that time he was considered unreliable by Beijing and potentially a double agent.

The newspaper published a photograph of Mr Krah and Mr Guo, which conceals the latter’s face because of German privacy laws, showing them sitting at a table in a restaurant.

‘Attack from within’

Nancy Faeser, the German interior minister, described the accusations as “extremely serious”, adding: “If it is confirmed that a European Parliament [worker] was spying for Chinese intelligence services, then it would be an attack from within on European democracy.”

In a swipe at Mr Krah, who employed Mr Guo, she added: “Anyone who employs such a staff member also carries responsibility... this case must be cleared up precisely. All the connections and background must be illuminated.”

AfD has described the case as “very disturbing,” while Mr Krah denied any knowledge of his aide being a spy when he was approached for comment by German media after news of the arrest broke.

Mr Krah, contacted by Bild, said that to the best of his knowledge his employee only had “contacts with official Chinese bodies in the embassy.”

In a longer statement on X, formerly Twitter, he said: “I learned of the arrest of my employee Jian Guo from the press this morning. I have no further information. Espionage for a foreign state is a serious accusation. If the allegations prove to be true, this would result in the immediate termination of his employment.”

An AfD spokesman said: “As we have no further information on the case, we must wait for further investigations by federal prosecutors.”

‘I don’t think there’s too much surprise’

It comes after German police also arrested three German citizens suspected of trying to provide China’s Ministry of State Security with technology that could have military uses.

That alleged Chinese spying ring, which appears to be unrelated to Mr Guo’s case, is suspected of using a London front company to pass on intelligence to Beijing.

It also follows the arrest of two German-Russian citizens last week on charges of spying for Russia and plotting sabotage attacks on US military sites in Germany used to support Ukraine.

A Telegraph investigation into Mr Krah had previously unearthed the German politician’s unusually close links to China.

“I don’t think there’s too much surprise to be honest,” a European Parliament official said after the MEP’s assistant was arrested.

Mr Guo has long sparked suspicions amongst colleagues because of his lack of German or English language skills and perceived lobbying in favour of the Chinese Communist Party.

His LinkedIn social media page lists him as sitting on the board of the Chinese government-backed Shenzhen LED Industry Standard Alliance, as well as holding a position at Fenda Technology, a manufacturing firm that specialises in making hardware for Huawei.

‘Anti-Chinese propaganda’

Mr Guo has worked for Mr Krah since 2019. In that time, the assistant has approached other AfD politicians and officials, inviting them on trips to China, sources said. He promised to help relax Beijing’s draconian Covid lockdown rules, according to internal party communications.

Mr Krah was a member of the European Parliament’s EU-China Friendship Group, an unofficial grouping of MEPs seen as close to the Chinese state.

The controversial body was formed in 2006 and suspended in 2021 because of concerns that it had grown too close to Beijing’s foreign affairs machine.

The AfD politician, who sits on the party’s federal executive committee, which helps shape its foreign policy positions, has described reports of mass internment camps and abuses against the country’s Uyghur minority population in China’s western Xinjiang region as “anti-Chinese propaganda” and “horror stories”.

He has also received a number of all-expenses-paid trips to China, according to public disclosure to the European Parliament.

A company listed as Huawei Research Center covered the cost of business class flights between Brussels, Beijing, Zhenjiang, Taizhou and Lishui, as well as stays in four and five-star hotels on the six-night trip in November 2019.

The reason for the trip was given by Mr Krah as “conversation, conference and lecture”.

‘This fire is their fire’

Nicolaus Fest, an AfD MEP, said: “Almost exactly one year ago I commented publicly on the questionable pro-Chinese voting of Mr Krah in the EP and the dubious connections of Mr Guo with the CCP. I concluded: No smoke without fire.

“Now this fire has become a full-grown forest fire, and it is not only a problem for Mr Krah. Both speakers of the AfD had been warned time and again. This fire is their fire.”

Mr Krah’s interventions in the European Parliament have often been used to further relations between the EU and China.

In May 2020, he submitted a written question to the European Commission, suggesting: “A return to normality requires good cooperation with China”. He asked: “What plans does the commission have for cooperation between the EU and China for our mutual benefit?”

On Oct 1 2021, the Mission of China to the EU shared a video message from Mr Krah congratulating the People’s Republic of China on its 72nd anniversary.

In interviews with Chinese media outlets, Mr Krah has claimed that “China has now become a monster used by Western liberals to bluff people”, claiming this was behind the West’s backing of Taiwan.

West’s global power ‘in decline’

The Telegraph interviewed Mr Krah in March, and at the time he expressed the view that the West’s global power was in decline. He also appeared to equate pro-Ukraine sentiments on the Right with being anti-China.

“Within the Right-wing faction, there is one major topic that is dividing us and this is very much pro-transatlantic, anti-Russian [sentiment] within the Right, that would like to be in Ukraine and is preparing a war on Taiwan.

“On the other hand, you have the AfD, who believes that the Western dominance of the world is over, that the future will be much more shaped by the global south, and that it’s time to rethink foreign policy.”

He also suggested that smaller EU states were likely to seek support from countries outside the EU in the future, such as the US or China, as Brussels was unable to help them handle long-term “challenges”.

“We are so interconnected with our neighbours and the challenges of the world of tomorrow are still big for tiny European countries like the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Luxembourg which are not able to deal with those challenges,” he said.

“So if you don’t have a European structure, those counties will definitely close deals with non-European powers. Most likely the United States, maybe China.”