MPs claim 'harassment, impersonation, and attempted hacking' from China

25 March 2024, 15:31

Sir Iain Duncan-Smith, who's among MPs being targeted, says we can't be "bullied" by Beijing.
A trio of MPs speak of "harassment" from China at a press conference held in London. Picture: Getty Images

By Flaminia Luck

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MPs thought to have been targeted by China in cyber-attacks say they want to see the country labelled as a threat.

Sir Iain Duncan Smith, Tim Loughton and Stewart McDonald said it's time for a "new era" in UK-China relations at a press conference in London, with Sir Iain adding they cannot be "bullied" by Beijing.

The former Tory party leader said: "We have been subjected to harassment, impersonation and attempted hacking from China for some time."

While that was "extremely unwelcome", Sir Iain said "our discomfort pales in comparison to Chinese dissidents who risk their lives to oppose the Chinese Communist Party".

Sanctions against Chinese officials are expected to be announced later.

Tim Loughton MP, Sir Iain Duncan Smith and Stewart McDonald call for China to be labelled as a threat at a press conference
Tim Loughton MP, Sir Iain Duncan Smith and Stewart McDonald call for China to be labelled as a threat at a press conference. Picture: Getty Images

Sir Iain added: "Today's announcement should mark a watershed moment where the UK takes a stand for values of human rights and the international rules-based system on which we all depend."

When quizzed on the details, Sir Iain Duncan Smith says he's had a "wolf warrior" impersonating him, emailing politicians around the world calling him a "liar" and changing his views.

Mr McDonald said he was targeted by Russia because of a member of his staff. He added cyber-attack attempts affect "every single part of our society".

'Many tentacles'

During the conference, Mr Loughton said we have to be "ever-vigilant", and that China has "many tentacles" with influence over schools, businesses and local authorities.

He said China is "in the business of trying to influence democracies", and cites the number of upcoming democratic elections as a reason for concern.

Read more: Britain to hit China with fresh sanctions over voter hack as rogue nations accused of ‘slurs against Princess of Wales’

PM Oliver Dowden is expected to tell Parliament that China is responsible for cyber-attacks which accessed personal details of millions of voters

The attacks on the Electoral Commission took place in August 2021 but were only revealed last year. At the time it said the attacks had no impact on elections.

Rishi Sunak has said China presented an "epoch-defining challenge".
Rishi Sunak has said China presented an "epoch-defining challenge". Picture: Getty

Earlier today, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said China represents the "greatest state-based threat" to the UK's economic security.

Speaking at an engineering firm in Barrow-in-Furness, he added: "We've been very clear that the situation now is that China is behaving in an increasingly assertive way abroad, authoritarian at home and it represents an epoch-defining challenge, and also the greatest state-based threat to our economic security.

"So, it's right that we take measures to protect ourselves, which is what we are doing."

Read more: Only two more letters of no confidence needed to oust Rishi Sunak as prime minister, former cabinet minister claims

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We have our eyes wide open when it comes to China.

"The Integrated Review Refresh set out that the UK regards China under the Chinese Communist Party as an epoch-defining challenge and as the biggest state-based threat to our economic security."

He added: "In relation to specific examples, we've used our new national security investment powers to block investment from China into sensitive technology sectors like semiconductors.

"Our National Security Act and others means we can take any steps that we need to, for example removing Huawei from our telecoms network."