Navy to replace Chinese servants for security reasons: Officials fear threats to families in China could force laundrymen to reveal secrets

Three Chinese laundrymen were blocked from serving on the HMS Queen Elizabeth due to security concerns ALAMY The Royal Navy is ending its century-old tradition of having Chinese servants on warships amid fears that they could be forced to spy for Beijing. Hundreds of Chinese laundrymen have worked on Britain’s warships since the 1930s, with most hired from Hong Kong to wash and press sailor’s uniforms and officers’ white tablecloths. Nepalese Gurkhas will replace them due to fears that Beijing could threaten the servants’ families in China to make those on board ships pass on Royal Navy secrets, The Sun has reported. The newspaper said that three Chinese were blocked from serving on HMS Queen Elizabeth, the navy’s flagship aircraft carrier, on a voyage to the South China Sea, the control of which is the subject of a long-standing dispute between China and its neighbours. A fourth Chinese laundryman was reported to have been dismissed this month after 39 years of service because his family lives in Hong Kong. The former first sea lord Admiral Lord Alan West said that the navy had “no choice” but to cut the historic ties with the laundrymen. “If it is a question of security. The navy has no choice. But it’s sad as Chinese laundrymen have fought wars with us, some have died for us,” he said. The newspaper reported that at least four Chinese nationals still worked for the Royal Navy, with a source stating that they had passed vetting because their families had moved to Britain to protect them from threats from Beijing. Ken McCallum, the head of MI5, has warned that China is attempting to steal nuclear technology secrets from Britain and disrupt the Aukus security pact, a nuclear submarine agreement with the United States and Australia. Aukus was developed in an effort to check China’s growing military assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region, where its naval force has more than tripled in the past two decades. McCallum previously warned that tens of thousands of British businesses were vulnerable to Chinese attempts to steal sensitive information, with 20,000 British officials targeted on LinkedIn in an attempt to lure them into handing over military and technological secrets. A Royal Navy spokesman said: “We ensure all civilian contractors have the appropriate security clearances.”