UK to change law to stop RAF pilots training China’s air force

China's regime trying to 'erase every trace' of protest says expert

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Around 30 former RAF pilots have been lured by Beijing to coach Chinese aviators in exchange for reported salaries of up to £240,000. The Defence Intelligence service is putting out a “threat alert” to warn personnel against approaches amid fears efforts are intensifying as tension between theWest and China grows.

And Armed Forces minister James Heappey said the Government will make it illegal to work for foreign militaries once the alert is issued.

Mr Heappey said the situation is “deeply uncomfortable” but stressed approaches to pilots are not illegal.

Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the Commons defence committee, suggested the 30 former pilots should lose British citizenship as they were “breaching the Official Secrets Act”.

It is thought China is attempting to modernise its military by driving standards towards those of Nato, with a strong focus on fast jet tactics and techniques.

All the pilots have experience flying fighter jets, including Typhoons, Jaguars, Harriers and Tornados, with Beijing using them to develop an understanding of how Western planes and pilots operate.

Mr Heappey admitted Whitehall has been concerned by Beijing’s recruitment campaign “for a number of years”.

He added: “We’ve approached the people involved and have been clear with them that it’s our expectation they would not continue to be part of that organisation.

“We are going to put into law that, once people have been given that warning, it will become an offence to continue with the training.

“China is a competitor that is threatening UK interests in many places around the world.

“There is no secret in its attempt to gain access to our secrets – and their recruitment of our pilots in order to understand the capabilities of our air force is clearly a concern to us.”

Mr Ellwood said: “Former RAF personnel working with China in this context should be stripped of British citizenships. This is akin to breaching the Official Secrets Act.”

Meanwhile, the UK has told China’s Charges d’Affaires in London the “right to peaceful protest must be respected”.

He was summoned to explain an incident in which a Hong Kong pro-democracy demonstrator was seen on Sunday being pulled into the grounds of the Chinese consulate in Manchester and beaten.

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