Priti Patel accuses ‘brazen’ China of spying on British universities and businesses

Priti Patel reveals UK terror threat level has increased to 'severe'

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As she continues her visit to the US, the Home Secretary gave a speech to the conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation in Washington on Friday. Although she did not name them, Priti Patel was understood to be referring to China in her speech which referenced a modernisation of the official secret laws.

The Home Secretary said: “Governments continue to spy on each other, but spying now has a much further reach, including into our universities and businesses.

“It is not inherently improper for countries to try to influence each other but we can never allow national security to be compromised.”

Ms Patel suggested a revitalisation of secret laws in order to include new spy threats such as hack-and-leak, online trolling and attempts to steal state secrets or destabilise the UK.

She continued: “One of the most significant threats to our security continues to be malign interference.

“The activities of those hidden relationships where public figures are encouraged to push another country’s interests, hack-and-leak operations, covert surveillance and organised online trolling.

“We in the UK will no longer tolerate the brazen way we have seen our national security subject to such activities.

“Our upcoming legislation will represent the biggest counter-state threats legislation in decades.”

In regards to China, the Home Secretary reminded the audience that in 2018, the UK, along with 14 other countries, accused Beijing of breaching a 2015 bilateral agreement setting out acceptable behaviour in cyberspace.

Parts of Ms Patel’s speech were also dedicated to the fight against antisemitism via a new plan tackling Hamas supporters.

The home secretary said the organisation will be proscribed by the government under the Terrorism Act.

It means anyone who expresses support for Hamas, flies their flag or arranges meetings for the organisation will be in breach of the law and could face up to 14 years in jail.

She said: “Hamas is fundamentally and rabidly antisemitic.

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“Antisemitism is an enduring evil which I will never tolerate.

“Jewish people routinely feel unsafe – at school, in the streets, when they worship, in their homes, and online.”

The Guardian reports that she told reporters: “We’ve taken the view that we can no longer disaggregate the sort of military and political side.

“It’s based upon a wide range of intelligence, information and also links to terrorism. The severity of that speaks for itself.”

Founded in 1987, Hamas holds a majority in the parliament of the Palestinian Authority and is the largest of several Palestinian militant Islamic groups.

Hamas has already been designated an outlawed terrorist organisation by the US, Canada and the EU, meaning that its assets can be seized and its members jailed.

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