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More than 1,000 scientists and postgraduate students were barred from working in the UK last year on national security grounds, amid a major government crackdown on research collaborations with China.

Figures obtained by the Guardian reveal that a record 1,104 scientists and postgraduate students were rejected by Foreign Office vetting in 2022, up from 128 in 2020 and just 13 in 2016.

The sharp increase follows a hardening of the government’s stance on scientific ties with China, with warnings from MI5 of a growing espionage threat, major research centres being quietly shut down and accusations by a government minister that China’s leading genomics company had regularly sought to hack into the NHS’s genetic database.

Geopolitical tensions stepped up further this week, as the US, Australia and the UK announced a multi-decade, multibillion-dollar deal aimed at countering China’s military expansion in the Indo-Pacific. China said the Aukus plan to build a combined fleet of elite nuclear-powered submarines was “a path of error and danger”.

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