Christine Lee: security warning to deputies over threat of Chinese espionage

MPs received a warning about a spy threat from a woman who MI5 said was trying to influence British politicians on behalf of China.

House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle in a letter to MPs warned Christine Lee had been “engaged in political interference” for the Communist Party of China and sought to pressure parliamentarians.

The letter said, “I must stress that Lee has facilitated financial donations to sitting and aspiring parliamentarians on behalf of foreign nationals based in Hong Kong and China. “

The President added: “This facilitation was done secretly to hide the origin of the payments. This is clearly unacceptable behavior and steps are being taken to ensure it stops.

Labor MP Barry Gardiner confirmed he had received donations from Ms Lee and said he had been in contact with intelligence “for several years” about the lawyer.

Analysis of the Register of Members’ Financial Interests showed that Ms Lee’s law firm, Christine Lee & Co, had donated more than £500,000 to Mr Gardiner between 2015 and 2020, mainly through funding from its staff.

“They have always known, and have been fully informed by me, of her engagement with my office and of the donations she has made to fund researchers in my office in the past,” Mr. Gardiner said.

The Labor MP also revealed Ms Lee’s son had acted as director of her newspaper – but the staff member resigned on Thursday morning. He said MI5 informed him “that they have no information showing that he was aware of or complicit in his mother’s illegal activities”.

Ms Lee stopped funding workers in Mr Gardiner’s office in June 2020. The MP said the donations had been properly reported to parliamentary authorities and that he had “not personally benefited from these donations in any way it would be”.

The allegation against Ms Lee is interference for the purpose of gaining secret influence in the UK and not intelligence gathering, Whitehall sources said. The independent. They declined to say whether investigations into his activities had failed to find evidence of espionage.

The MI5 security warning named Ms Lee as a lawyer suspected of being “knowingly engaged in political interference activities” in the UK. The alert said Ms. Lee had “acted covertly” in coordination with the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) United Front Work Department.

He said she had engaged with “individuals from across the political spectrum in Britain” – including through the now-dissolved Chinese All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) in Britain – and may “aspire to establish d ‘other APPGs to advance the agenda of the CCP’.

Labour MP Barry Gardiner

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(AP Archives)

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey also received a £5,000 donation from Ms Lee in 2013 when he was energy secretary in the Coalition Government, but said the money was accepted by his local association and would have been correctly.

A Lib Dem spokesman said Sir Ed was ‘shocked by the revelations’, adding: ‘The email from the Speaker of the House of Commons today was the first time he had reason to be concerned about a donation to his local party association.”

In 2014, she helped sponsor a Chinese Liberal Democrat dinner in support of Sarah Yong, then the party’s candidate for Somerton and Frome. And in 2013 it funded flights for a four-day trip to Beijing for Labor MP for Hendon, Andrew Dismore, who was then chairman of the Chinese in Britain APPG.

In 2019, then-Prime Minister Theresa May presented Ms Lee with a Points of Light award for her work with the British Chinese Project, a group to promote engagement between the Chinese community and British society in the sense of large.

In a personal letter to Ms Lee – the founder of the organization – Ms May said: “You should be very proud of the difference the British Chinese Project is making”.

Christine Lee speaking at British Chinese Project event

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Christine Lee speaking at the British Chinese Project event

(British Chinese Project / YouTube)

Former Prime Minister David Cameron was also pictured addressing a British Chinese Project event in a photo the organization posted online in 2016.

Ms Lee was also pictured speaking to former Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and former Deputy Party Leader Tom Watson during a UK Chinese project at a separate event in 2016.

Senior Conservative MP Sir Iain Duncan Smith raised the issue in the Commons on Thursday and called for an overhaul of the accreditation process “because it is clearly too lenient”.

The former leader of the Conservative Party told MPs: ‘This is a matter of grave concern’, adding: ‘Why in heaven’s name is such an agent allowed in this country?’

There are currently no laws in place to prosecute for seeking to exert influence, such as the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) in the United States. In March this year, the government said as part of the integrated defense and security review that it would seek to introduce a registration system for foreign agents.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said it was ‘deeply concerning’ that an individual ‘who has knowingly engaged in political interference activities on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party has targeted parliamentarians “.

She said that although the type of activity identified by MI5 “could potentially harm our country”, she said the activity was “below the criminal line”. Ms Patel said the government was looking at “what other measures, actions and steps we can take, and that’s really important”.

Human rights activist Luke from Pulford said The independent: “It’s not a surprise for us. A very close relationship between the Chinese Embassy and parliamentary figures has long been suspected. It just goes to show that democracy can be overthrown by this sort of thing. “

Mr de Pulford supported Sir Iain’s call for root and branch control of all people working in MPs’ offices. “I think we need to clarify the interests of people working for MPs,” said Mr de Pulford.

The Metropolitan Police declined to say whether officers were investigating after MI5 issued a security alert to parliament.

The independent has contacted Christine Lee’s office and the British Chinese Project for comment.

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