China ‘trying to undermine our democracy’ with cyber attacks, senior MP warns

UK

China is “threatening to undermine our democracy”, a senior Conservative has claimed – as MPs are set to be warned about a fresh swathe of cyber attacks.

Sky News understands that a small group of MPs and peers are due to be told about recent attempts to infiltrate their “digital presence” – while MPs in general are set to be warned by the deputy prime minister that Beijing is responsible for the intrusions.

Speaking to Sky News this morning, Alicia Kearns, the chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, called on the government to be more open about its strategy surrounding the country.

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She said: “The government does have a strategy on China, but it’s a classified level.

“And so my question to the government, my challenge to them, is how does business, how does civil society, how do the thousands, tens of thousands of civil servants not working at classified level know what decision they should be making so that they can contribute to our national security.

“It is not government alone that is responsible for national security – so we need to do a lot more because the attacks from China continue.”

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She added: “I’ve had attacks on my cyber attacks on my emails, which emanated from China.

“The threat is real, they are trying to undermine our democracy.

“And if we do not have a public strategy of which the whole country can unite, we will have gaps in our resilience and that will leave us vulnerable.”

Ms Kearns’s warnings come following reports in The Sunday Times that Alison Giles, parliaments director of security, is set to brief former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, former Conservative education minister Tim Loughton, crossbench peer Lord Alton of Liverpool and SNP MP Stewart McDonald.

All are critics of the Chinese government and members of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), a group of MPs from across the world who probe Beijing’s activities.

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Image:
Tory MP Alicia Kearns

Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden is applying to the Speaker’s office to make a statement to parliament about China, and Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron is set to brief the 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs on Monday evening.

It marks the latest development in a hardening attitude from the UK towards China.

Last year, a parliamentary worker was arrested on suspicion of spying for the country, and in 2022 the head of MI5 warned alongside his FBI counterpart that China was a “game-changing challenge”.

It is a far cry from the “golden era” the then prime minister Lord Cameron announced between the UK and China alongside Chinese premier Xi Jinping in 2015.

There has also been concern over the way Chinese-owned technology companies, like ByteDance’s TikTok or Huawei, handle data.

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Ms Kearns added: “I should be clear, this is the Chinese Communist Party, this is not the Chinese people, this is not in their interests.

“This is a Chinese Communist Party trying to achieve its objectives and goals at the cost of ours, and the reality is they will continue to try to make us vulnerable by making us dependent on them at home, whether it comes to data or technology.

“And they will continue to try to extract data with technology such as TikTok, and they will continue to try to undermine us by buying up allies around the world and rewriting the multilateral system.”

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