The Chinese Mission to the European Union on Sunday said “relevant parties should treat China and China-EU relations in an objective and fair fashion, and not make irresponsible remarks,” after the German daily Die Welt reported Saturday that the EU foreign service has warned there are hundreds of Russian and Chinese secret agents operating in Brussels.
“We are deeply shocked by such a report, which is entirely groundless,” a spokesperson with the Chinese Mission to the EU wrote on its official website.
The spokesperson said that the “Chinese side has always respected the sovereignty of all countries and does not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. We attach great importance to the EU and China-EU relations, and China is always committed to maintaining and promoting the healthy and stable development of China-EU relations.”
European External Action Service (EEAS), a branch of the EU headed by chief EU diplomat Federica Mogherini, estimates that there are “about 250 Chinese and 200 Russian spies in the European capital,” the German paper reported, citing EU diplomats.
EU diplomats and military officials were also advised to avoid certain parts of Brussels’ European quarter, including a popular steakhouse and a cafe near the European Commission’s main building, the German report said.
The report also cited EEAS as saying that Russian and Chinese intelligence agents are mainly based at their home countries’ embassies or trade missions.
Brussels is widely considered the de facto EU capital and the home to NATO.
Zhang Shengjun, an international politics professor at Beijing Normal University, told the Global Times on Sunday that the report is “clearly hyping of another groundless version of the ‘China threat theory,’ and a typical move to stigmatize China’s image and its legitimate activities in Europe, as way to distract the public’s attention from its recent internal turmoil.”
By definition, espionage refers to secret intelligence work against adversaries through illegal means to attain core information, criteria could not possibly apply to any open trade and communication activities carried out by Chinese officials or trade commissions in Europe, Zhang said.
The report deliberately binds China and Russia to serve the EU’s political agenda based on its Cold War mentality, Zhang noted. “After all, China has a perfectly clean record when it comes to spying on other countries, unlike the US.”
The number of spies from other non-European countries, such as the US, was not mentioned in the German paper’s report, The Brussels Times reported on Saturday.
Zhang believes the majority of Europeans will not take the report seriously, and it will hardly undermine China-EU’s mutual trust.
Russia’s Sputnik news website on Saturday recalled the 2003 spy scandal in Brussels targeting Spanish, British, German and French diplomats who worked within the European Council’s Justis Lipsius building.
While those responsible for the notorious bugging scandal were never positively identified, the global intelligence community widely placed the blame on US and Israeli operatives, Sputnik reported.