Former Vlaams Belang MP exposed as Chinese spy

Former Vlaams Belang MP exposed as Chinese spy
Vlaams Belang politician Frank Creyelman and Chinese flag on the Great Wall of China, in Beijing. Credit: Belga

For over three years, the Flemish far-right nationalist Frank Creyelman was used as an informer by Chinese intelligence services in an attempt to influence Belgian policy in favour of forwarding Beijing's interests.

The Flemish nationalist has been exposed thanks to leaked text messages obtained during a joint investigation of the Financial Times, Der Spiegel and Le Monde, and reported on by Belga News Agency.

An agent of the Chinese Ministry of State Security – a man named Daniel Woo –put the former Vlaams Belang politician under pressure to influence discussions in Europe on Chinese issues. Some of the issues include Chinese repression in Hong Kong and the persecution of Uyghurs in Xinjiang province.

The day after Charles Michel was elected President of the European Council, Creyelman received a first message from Woo on 3 July 2019 asking him to "report on Charles Michel, his political views, his personality, his hobbies and his opinion of [China]." A reminder was sent three days later to Creyelman.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel (R) member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of China Meng Jianzhu pictured during a diplomatic meeting, Thursday 19 May 2016, in Brussels. Credit: Belga / Thierry Roge

In his initial response, he limited himself to stating that the former Belgian Prime Minister had "bought" his new position through political manoeuvring. According to Creyelman, Michel also had links with "internationalists close to George Soros," an American billionaire of Hungarian origin who is often targeted by far-right antisemitic conspiracies. "He loves money, but is no friend of China or Russia,” added Creyelman.

As German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was about to visit China at the end of last year, Woo asked Creyelman to persuade two right-wing members of the European Parliament to state publicly that the US and UK were undermining European energy security.

"Our goal is to divide US-EU relations," Woo said in a message to Creyelman.

A 2021 exchange between the two men shows, again according to the press, that Woo also told Creyelman that he had been ordered "to attack Adrian Zenz", a German anthropology researcher who helped reveal how China was detaining hundreds of thousands of Uighurs in Xinjiang.

Creyelman was also asked for help with disrupting a conference on Taiwan. The pair also discussed paying an intermediary to influence a Catholic cardinal to warn against politicising the Covid-19 pandemic, around the time when China was under international pressure over the virus having originated in Wuhan, China, in late 2019.

'In the pocket of dangerous regimes'

It is not known how contact was established between the Chinese intelligence agent and the Vlaams Belang politician. There appears to have been little physical contact between the two, except for a trip taken by the elected representative of Vlaams Belang to Sanya, a seaside resort on the Chinese island of Hainan, where a meeting between the two men took place in 2019.

Frank Creyelman, 62, is an honorary Flemish MP and is still Vlaams Belang group leader on the Mechelen town council, having previously served in the Flemish parliament and senate for the far-right party. He announced in October that he would be retiring from politics next year.

The Flemish nationalist is known for his sympathies for Russian President Vladimir Putin, and has been invited to Moscow on several occasions. Creyelman was even an observer at the controversial referendum organised by the Kremlin that ratified the annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014.

Flemish socialists Vooruit, who sit in opposition in Flanders with Vlaams Belang, have called for the Flemish Parliament to strip him of his honorary status. "This man should no longer have free access to Parliament. Frank Creyelman and the network around Filip Dewinter (one of the leaders of the far-right party) demonstrates once again that Vlaams Belang is in the pocket of extreme and dangerous regimes", said MP Thijs Verbeurgt in a statement.

The Leader of Vlaams Belang Tom van Grieken has reportedly called Creyelman's behaviour "unacceptable" and has excluded him from the party. Creyelman himself did not respond to attempts to contact him for comment, according to the media concerned.

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