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China’s Spy Activities in Belgium

The State Security Service, the Veiligheid van de Staat (VSSE), a Belgian state intelligence agency, recently spoke out about China’s spy activities in the military and scientific arena posing threats to EU security.

In October 2019, Belgium declared Song Xinning, the Confucius Institute president of the Free University of Brussels (VUB), as persona non grata, revoking his visa and banning his entry into the 26 European Schengen states for 8 years. During his ten-year tenure at VUB, Song had engaged in espionage activities for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and was regarded as “sabotaging national security.”

“As part of the ambitious ‘Made in China 2025’ project, which provides for rapid development of know-how in China itself, all available means must be used to import as much knowledge as possible into China,” the VSSE told the EUobserver, a not-for-profit online newspaper based in Brussels, when it was describing China’s goal of siphoning information from abroad. “These include formal knowledge transfer programmes, such as exchanges between researchers, joint ventures, and takeovers of companies. In some cases, China also does economic espionage.”

On May 7, the EUobserver disclosed some details of some confidential VSSE reports dated from 2010 to 2016, which stated that Chinese spies have targeted Belgian biological warfare and vaccine experts, British pharmaceutical giant and vaccine-maker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in Belgium and Belgian high-tech firms.

VSSE is also concerned about the China Belgium Technology Centre (CBTC), a Chinese-funded “smart valley” in Louvain-la-Neuve. It houses 23 Chinese and Belgian firms in the life sciences, IT, and high-tech manufacturing sectors, and will house up to 800 Chinese high-tech specialists and entrepreneurs when it is completed in late 2021. “And even if the CBTC itself was not a front for Chinese intelligence, it could be used by the MSS (Ministry of State Security) as a back door in the future, the VSSE warned.”

On May 15, the French newspaper Le Monde,  also reported on long-held VSSE suspicions that Chinese intelligence had installed surveillance equipment in Malta’s EU embassy in Brussels in 2007, when a Chinese firm renovated the building.

Source: Radio Free Asia, May 15, 2020.
EUobserver, May 6, 2020