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Ex-UK Marine Accused of Spying for Hong Kong Found Dead After Being Bailed Last Week

London: Matthew Trickett, a former member of the UK's Royal Marines, was found dead in a park in Maidenhead, west of London, on Sunday. The discovery was made by a member of the public, and the Thames Valley Police have stated that the death is currently being treated as unexplained. Trickett was 37 years old.

Trickett was one of three men accused of assisting Hong Kong's intelligence services in a Chinese-linked espionage case. The charges included assisting a foreign intelligence service and foreign interference, violating the 2023 National Security Act. This act, which came into force in December, aims to strengthen UK national security against hostile activities targeting the country's democratic institutions, economy, and values.

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Trickett was bailed last week along with Chi Leung Wai, 38, and Chung Biu Yuen, 63. They were scheduled to appear in court again on Friday. Before his recent roles, Trickett worked for the UK Border Force at Heathrow Airport and joined Home Office Immigration Enforcement on February 21, 2024. He also ran MTR Consultancy, a security firm he founded in April 2021.

The police investigation into Trickett’s death is ongoing. His recent employment included roles as an immigration enforcement officer and private investigator, according to the UK's PA news agency.

The UK's new National Security Act was cited in the charges against Trickett and his co-accused, and it is designed to protect the UK from hostile foreign activities. The "foreign intelligence service" mentioned in the charges was Hong Kong's.

China's foreign affairs commissioner in Hong Kong has condemned Britain for what it calls "cooking up charges," accusing the UK of interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs and warning of "firm and strong retaliation."

The UK has been vocal against Hong Kong's new national security law, seeing it as a threat to the territory's rights and freedoms. The UK has also launched a visa scheme allowing Hong Kong residents to move to the UK, making it a refuge for dissidents, including pro-democracy activist Nathan Law.

Last year, Hong Kong police issued a wanted list of eight overseas activists, including Law. This month, as part of the UK's investigation, 11 people were taken into custody.

The case involving Trickett follows another high-profile incident where two men, one working in the UK parliament, were charged with spying for China. They are set to be tried next year.

Relations between the UK and China have soured in recent years over issues like Hong Kong, the treatment of the Uighur Muslim minority in Xinjiang, and human rights in Tibet. Amnesty International recently reported that China targets its citizens studying abroad for their political activism, with some reporting harassment of their families back home. Beijing dismissed these reports as "purely malicious smears.

May 22, 2024 1 p.m. 521

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