The researcher has been working for several years with parliamentarians in the field of international relations, including Beijing. He had previously lived and worked in China, and it is feared that he may have been recruited as a sleeper agent during the years he spent there.
In his role with parliamentarians, the man may have had access to “highly sensitive” documents, as well as private briefings of ministers, senior officials and dissidents critical of China’s ruling Communist Party.
The “hostile” investigator is accused of reporting against MPs who are part of IPAC, including Sir Iain Duncan Smith.
Sir Iain alleged the man was trying to “split ruling party groups” and making a “deliberate attempt to undermine people who were critical of China”.
Sunak, who has faced criticism from some senior Conservatives for pursuing a relationship with China that they increasingly see as a threat, met Li on the sidelines of the G20 summit in New Delhi on Sunday.
He insisted it was the “right approach” to be “in the room talking directly to the Chinese,” adding: “There’s no point in criticizing from the sidelines; I’d rather be there directly expressing my concerns, and that’s what I did.” today.”
News of the latest arrest has led to calls for a tougher stance towards Beijing, with MPs demanding sanctions or expulsions from the Chinese embassy.
Tim Loughton, Conservative MP and leading member of IPAC, said: “Our big concern over the last few months is that no one from China has been sanctioned. No follow-up. There are no consequences.
“If there is a spy operating for the Chinese government who has now been discovered, there have to be implications for the people at the Chinese embassy in the UK. “There need to be sanctions or expulsions.”
His comments were backed by Sir Iain, a former Conservative leader, who called on the Government to take “a more aggressive approach” because China “is a threat” but ministers are treating the Chinese as allies.
“They have to kick some people out of the embassy because of this, and they need to toughen their line and start talking about China as a systemic threat,” he told The Telegraph.