Germany Arrests 3 Suspected of Passing Secrets to China

Three German citizens who are believed to have gathered sensitive naval data and obtained a high-powered laser on behalf of the Chinese security services were arrested on Monday, prosecutors said, underscoring the fragile nature of the relationship between the two countries.

A man identified as Thomas R., in keeping with German privacy rules, acted as an “agent” for the Chinese Ministry of State Security, and engaged two others — a married couple identified as Herwig and Ina F. — who ran an engineering company in Düsseldorf, the authorities said.

The arrests come at an awkward time for the German government: Chancellor Olaf Scholz recently spent three days in China as the countries signed several bilateral trade agreements, but Germany is also vigilant to the threat posed by China.

“​​We are aware of the considerable danger posed by Chinese espionage to business, industry and science,” said Nancy Faeser, the German minister of the interior. “We are looking very closely at these risks and threats and have issued clear warnings and raised awareness so that protective measures are increased everywhere,” she added.

Separately, the British authorities said in a statement on Monday that two men had been charged with violating the Official Secrets Act and had been arrested in a case that related to China.

The threat to Germany was made clear last week, when Volkswagen confirmed that Chinese hackers in a separate incident had stolen an estimated 19,000 sensitive documents from the automaker over a period of four years, starting in 2010. Volkswagen is one of the biggest German companies.

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