The report comes the day after the UK broadcast regulator Ofcom revoked the licence of a Chinese television network, which was swiftly followed by Beijing lodging an official complaint over the BBC’s reporting on the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, also known as the novel coronavirus.
According to the Telegraph report, a senior government source said that the three spies worked for three different Chinese media agencies, which were not named.
They were forced to return to China after MI5 uncovered their true identities and that they were intelligence officers for Beijing’s Ministry of State Security, according to the Telegraph.
The Epoch Times has not been able to confirm the claims made in the report. The Home Office has not responded to a request for comment.
It is not clear when the spies were expelled.
Concerns over CCP influence and espionage in the UK have been growing in recent years, in particular among some backbench Conservative MPs.
The government is expected to update laws on espionage in the late spring.
Broadcast regulator Ofcom on Thursday revoked the licence for China Global Television Network (CGTN) on the grounds that the station is “controlled by a body which is ultimately controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.” UK broadcasting laws do not allow licences for media controlled by political bodies.
Within hours, Beijing’s officials lodged a complaint with the BBC, accusing it of “fake news” in its reporting on how the CCP had covered-up the pandemic and the origins of the CCP virus.
And on Friday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin slammed the Ofcom ruling as “politicising the issue on a technical point” and warned that China reserves the right to make a “necessary response”.
According to human rights NGO Safeguard Defenders, CGTN and its Chinese-language counterpart CCTV have, on numerous occasions, aired recordings of “forced confessions” from individuals held by the state under duress. The NGO said that broadcasting of these materials amounts to “known and intentional distortion of facts and clear lies,” in violation of Ofcom’s rules on impartiality and accuracy.
British ex-journalist Peter Humphrey, one of the four forced confessions victims the NGO represents, on Thursday told The Epoch Times that Ofcom’s “unprecedented” move was a “moment of triumph.”
Humphrey, who ran a corporate due diligence firm in China, was held by the CCP for allegedly buying and selling personal data, allegations he denies. He said Chinese state police drugged him, tied him to a metal chair in a small cage, and forced him to read from a pre-written statement to “confess.”
“Seeing the licence revoked today is a moment of triumph, not only for me, but also for all the other victims of this type of abuse,” Humphrey said. “It’s a slap on the face for the dictatorship in Beijing.”
He said that Ofcom has more actions against CGTN in the pipeline.
“There are still penalties expected in relation to my personal complaint against CGTN, and the complaints of Simon Cheng and Angela Gui, which will very, very soon see the final ruling,” he said.
Lily Zhou, John Smithies, and Reuters contributed to this report