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Police: Briton accused of spying for Hong Kong found dead

May 21 (UPI) -- A British immigration enforcement officer charged last week for working with Hong Kong intelligence has been found dead, police said Tuesday.

The body of Matthew Trickett, 37, was found Sunday at about 5:15 p.m. local time in Grenfell Park, which is located in Maidenhead, a market town 30 miles west of London.

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Thames Valley Police confirmed identification of the body Tuesday, stating its officers were investigating the "unexplained death."

"His family have been informed and they are being supported by officers," the police force said in a statement. "We would kindly ask that their privacy is respected at this difficult time."

Trickett, a former Royal Marine and a resident of Maidenhead, died while out on bail and awaiting court proceedings for charges of assisting a foreign intelligence service.

He was charged May 13 along with Chi "Peter" Leung, 38, a border official at Heathrow Airport and a special constable with the City of London Police, and Chung Biu Yuen, 63, the office manager of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office. Leung is also a dual Hong Kong-British citizen.

Authorities alleged that between Dec. 20, 2023, and their arrest, the trio agreed to spy for the Hong Kong intelligence service, and on May 1 attempted to break into the home of a Hong Kong dissident.

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The three were out on bail.

China's ambassador to Britain Zheng Zeguang, China's foreign ministry and Hong Kong's Chief Executive John Lee have all rejected the accusations.

"The Chinese side firmly rejects and strongly condemns the UK's fabrication in the so-called case, and its unwarranted accusation against the Hong Kong [Special Administration Region] Government," Lee told reporters following the arrests. "The Hong Kong Government has demanded the U.K. Government to provide full information of this matter."

The relationship between Hong Kong and London has precipitously deteriorated since mass pro-democracy protests rocked the former British colony starting in 2019.

In response to the protests, Hong Kong has implemented a draconian national security law that compelled pro-democracy demonstration leaders to flee overseas, some of who sought refuge in Britain.

London in 2021, launched a new visa program, opening millions of Hong Kong residents to apply to work and live in Britain over the national security law that criminalizes widely defined acts of of sedition, subversion, terrorism and working with foreign agencies to undermine China's national security with hefty sentences.

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