MI5 warns MPs about Chinese spy ‘operating in UK’
MI5 has warned MPs about a Chinese agent it believes is covertly engaging in “political interference activities” in the UK.
Ms Lee is accused of working on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party, and previously donated to the Brent North Labour MP Barry Gardiner.
A Security Service Interference Alert (SSIA) was circulated on Thursday to parliamentarians by Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle.
He said MPs Ms Lee contacted included members of the now disbanded Chinese in Britain All Party Parliamentary Group.
Sir Lindsay said: “I should highlight the fact that Lee has facilitated financial donations to serving and aspiring parliamentarians on behalf of foreign nationals based in Hong Kong and China.
“This facilitation was done covertly to mask the origins of the payments. This is clearly unacceptable behaviour and steps are being taken to ensure it ceases.”
The SSIA issued by MI5 said Ms Lee had “acted covertly” in co-ordination with the United Front Work Department (UFWD) of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
They explained: “We judge that the UFWD is seeking to covertly interfere in UK politics through establishing links with established and aspiring parliamentarians across the political spectrum.
“Lee has been engaged in the facilitation of financial donations to political parties, parliamentarians, aspiring parliamentarians and individuals seeking political office in the UK, including facilitating donations to political entities on behalf of foreign nationals.
“Lee has publicly stated that her activities are to represent the UK Chinese community and increase diversity. However, the aforementioned activity has been undertaken in covert co-ordination with the UFWD, with funding provided by foreign nationals located in China and Hong Kong.”
Home secretary Priti Patel insisted the UK had “strong structures” in place to identify foreign interference.
She said: “I know it will be deeply concerning to many that an individual who has knowingly engaged in political interference activities on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party has targeted parliamentarians.”
In a statement, Mr Gardiner said he had been “liaising with our security services” for many years about Ms Lee.
He said: “They have always known, and been made fully aware by me, of her engagement with my office and the donations she made to fund researchers in my office in the past.
“Steps were taken to ensure Christine Lee had no role in either the appointment or management of those researchers. They are also aware that I have not benefited personally from those donations in any way. She ceased funding any workers in my office in June 2020.”
Mr Gardiner said all the donations were properly reported and “their source verified at the time”.
A former chairman of the Chinese in Britain APPG, Mr Gardiner also said he had employed Ms Lee’s son as his diary manager until he abruptly resigned earlier on Thursday.
SNP foreign affairs spokesperson Alyn Smith claimed dodgy people being around Westminster should “surprise nobody”.
He said: “The fact that one is actually a proper spy is a reminder that we all of us need to be vigilant and Scotland is not immune from attempts to influence our politicians and our debate too.
“We need a wholesale review of electoral law, the laws on funding of political parties and elections, online disinformation and data protection.
“Sadly I doubt this hapless UK Government will take this forward, but I will continue to press for reform and transparency.”
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