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Photo reportedly shows suspect in UK spy case with Hong Kong’s top official

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One of the three men accused of aiding the Hong Kong intelligence services in the UK was a classmate of the territory’s top official, John Lee, who has hit out at “unwarranted allegations” against the Hong Kong government, according to reports.

Chung Biu Yuen, a bureaucrat who works in the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office (HKETO) in London, is said to appear alongside Lee in a graduation photograph from 2002 that was published by the South China Morning Post.

Yuen and Lee are both former police officers and were reportedly pictured in front of a banner for Charles Sturt University in Australia, where Lee obtained a master’s in public policy and administration. Lee’s degree was reportedly sponsored by the police force.

Lee, who was appointed as Hong Kong’s chief executive in 2022, told reporters on Tuesday “my recollection of this person is limited to this photo”.

Yuen, 63, Chi Leung “Peter” Wai, 38, and Matthew Trickett, 37, were charged on Monday with unlawfully assisting the Hong Kong intelligence service and engaging in foreign interference by forcing entry into a British address. All three appeared before Westminster magistrates and were bailed to appear at the Old Bailey on 24 May.

In a statement published on Monday, the Hong Kong government demanded more information from the UK authorities and said that the outposts “maintain close liaison with interlocutors in the local government, business, thinktanks and various sectors, with a view to enriching bilateral ties”.

There are 14 HKETOs globally. They handle Hong Kong’s commercial relations with major markets. But legislation from 1996 gives the offices and its employees in the UK certain privileges and immunities in line with consular offices.

Hong Kong’s authorities deny that the offices engage in political activities.

On Tuesday, the Chinese ambassador to the UK, Zheng Zeguang, was summoned by the Foreign Office regarding “the recent pattern of behaviour directed by China against the UK including cyber-attacks, reports of espionage links and the issuing of bounties”, which a Foreign Office spokesperson said was “not acceptable”.

The Chinese embassy in London called the accusations against Hong Kong a “malicious fabrication”.

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