Frank Creyelman, a politician of the Belgian right-wing Vlaams Belang party, has allegedly been used as a Chinese intelligence asset, according to an investigation by the Financial Times, Der Spiegel and Le Monde.
Creyelman, a former senator and MP now serving as municipal councillor for Vlaams Belang, allegedly acted on the instructions of Daniel Woo, an officer in China’s Ministry of State Security spy agency.
The newspapers’ research released on December 15 seems to indicate China has a significant indirect presence in Europe, dedicated to trying to influence discourse and policy, with several Chinese Secret Service divisions competing with each other.
After the newspapers’ report broke, Vlaams Belang President Tom Van Grieken said Creyelman had been suspended from the party.
“The name Creyelman no longer appears on the lists for the parliamentary elections,” Van Grieken told media on December 15.
“Today’s shocking revelations force us to say goodbye to him definitively, even as a regular member of the party.
“His actions go against the purpose and essence, even the name, of our party,” Van Grieken said.
“The only loyalty for nationalists can only be to their own nation.”
Update: Partijbestuur @vlbelang bevestigt de uitsluiting, per direct. Zijn handelingen gaan in tegen het doel en het wezen, zelfs de naam van onze partij. De enige loyauteit voor nationalisten kan enkel de eigen natie zijn. https://t.co/J3Vkw6Yywg
— Tom Van Grieken (@tomvangrieken) December 15, 2023
The in-depth report by the three newspapers seems damning.
“Our main purpose is to divide the US-European relationship,” Woo wrote in a text message to Creyelman, according to the probe. The media researchers were able to look into text messages from 2019 to late 2022 that were obtained from a Western security source.
Among claimed actions, the Chinese asked their alleged European asset for support in discrediting a German scientist called Adrian Zenz, who is critical of China.
The reported operators apparently discussed assignments related to the European Parliament, the Vatican and the Congo.
It is alleged that, at his handlers’ behest, the politician tried to manipulate debates in Europe regarding China, such as those on Beijing’s oppression of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, issues in Tibet and its assault on democracy in Hong Kong. He is also accused of being involved in a planned pro-Taiwan event at the European Parliament.
According to the newspapers’ investigation, Creyleman was also instructed to investigate how to gain an influential foothold into the Vatican. As part of that effort to have a contact there in China’s favour, an intermediary reportedly demanded €250,000.
It is alleged China further paid Creyleman to spread the message that the UK and US only “cause trouble” in Europe, while “China is supportive” of the EU.
Woo requested that Creyelman “prepare a report on Charles Michel, on his political opinions, his personality, his hobbies and his views on our country [China],” it is reported.
Creyelman is alleged to have said that Michel had “bought” his new position via political manoeuvring. He claimed Michel had links to “internationalists close to George Soros”.
“He likes money, but he is not friends with China or Russia,” he is reported to have told Woo.
According to the media investigation, Creyleman was also asked to persuade two MEPs from his own party, Tom Vandendriessche and Filip De Man, to openly declare that the US and the UK were compromising the energy security of Europe. Neither man did.
Via the Identity and Democracy Group, Creyleman reportedly also had a gateway to others, in particular German politicians such as Stefan Keuter, an MP for the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party.
The newspapers also stated Waldemar Herdt, a former MP for the AfD, was mentioned by Creyelman in the chats with Woo, saying: “He is pro-China.”
Herdt insists he does not know Creyelman or Woo and is neither pro-Chinese nor pro-Russian.
In its coverage, Der Spiegel queried: “Are the so-called patriots of the AfD, of all people, deliberately paving the way for the secret services of foreign powers to enter the German parliament?
“This would be a unique form of betrayal, and the written chat messages available support this suspicion.”
The newspapers’ investigation states the relationship between Creyleman and Woo was cordial but Creyleman was a paid-for asset, asking between €6,000 and €10,000 for each of his assignments. In 2022, Woo wanted to pay in crypto, via the Chinese-owned platform Binance, it is alleged.
Creyelman also reportedly approached his brother, an MP in Belgium who has a seat on its Defence Commission, but was dismissive about him. “My brother is indeed too soft, but he can be persuaded. He’s just not active enough,” he allegedly wrote to the Chinese agent.
The media report claims that Woo has been involved in intelligence activities for some time; in 2015, his name came up during an operation in Poland, it said. Additionally, it is alleged that he and his colleagues used the professional network LinkedIn to try to recruit German MPs, officials and their associates.
Under false pretences, Chinese agents attempted to network with powerful figures in German politics, the investigation claims.
It is alleged one of the agents presented a written draft offer to a member of the Bundestag that was worth several tens of thousands of euros. It was also reported that an MP’s assistant went to China and was given more than €10,000 before the Office for the Protection of the Constitution intervened.
Another very peculiar set of messages reported by the newspapers might indicate China’s infiltration went even further. In October 2022, Woo apparently wrote: “We always asked you to recruit sources like Martin Selmayr,” to which Creyelman replied: “Martin was a lucky shot.”
Selamayr, a German Christian Democrat, served as Secretary-General of the European Commission and has been described as one of the most influential figures within the EU. UK Brexiteer Nigel Farrage dubbed him “the most powerful bureaucrat in the world”.
Selmayr is now head of the EC representation in Vienna, but said in a reaction to Der Spiegel he did not know Creyelman or Woo.
He said he had no idea why his name was mentioned. Der Spiegel cites him calling China a “systemic rival” in EU circles.
The FT noted: “Creyelman appears to have had little success in fulfilling the tasks assigned by Woo in the texts.”
Sources within Vlaams Belang told Brussels Signal Creyelman might have acted as if he was “important” but had “no influence whatsoever”.
This seems to be corroborated by the voting record of the party, where a critical stance against China has long been consistent.
Creyelman was already discredited within the party over his actions in Eastern Europe.
He was openly sympathetic towards the regimes in Moscow and Belarus and led delegations to observe elections in Russia. He was at the 2014 referendum in Crimea that ratified the annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula, which was widely regarded as a sham.
In February 2022, shortly after the start of the war in Ukraine, he told Sputnik News he “disapproved” of Belgian arms deliveries to the embattled country, for which he was admonished by his party.
As of writing, Creyleman was uncontactable for comment, despite repeated attempts by Brussels Signal to do so.