British MPs warned by spy agency MI5 about Chinese agent’s ‘political interference activities’


The UK's domestic spy agency MI5 has warned British MPs that a Chinese agent sought to infiltrate parliament and has attempted to influence politicians.

Key points:

  • The woman was named by MI5 as Christine Ching Kui Lee
  • Ms Lee is the founder of a London-based law firm that previously advised the Chinese embassy in London
  • At least one MP had received donations from the law firm

A letter sent by Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle to MPs said the security agency had warned him a woman "has been engaged in political interference activities on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party, engaging with members here at Parliament".

The woman, named in the rare MI5 security alert as Christine Ching Kui Lee, had facilitated financial donations to politicians on behalf of foreign nationals based in Hong Kong and China, the letter said.

MI5 said Ms Lee has been working with the Britain-Chinese Project and the China Overseas Friendship Association, but was also covertly working for the United Front Work Department (UFWD) for the Chinese government.

"UFWD actors have been known to be involved in political interference activity, seeking to deceive, corrupt or coerce politicians and-high profile individuals into making statements or taking action in support of the objectives of the CCP," the security alert said.

Ms Lee is the founder of Christine Lee and Co, a London-based law firm that has previously advised the Chinese embassy in London.

Labour MP Barry Gardiner said in a statement that he had received donations from Ms Lee but all had been properly reported in the registers of members' interest, and the funding had stopped in June 2020.

Mr Gardiner reportedly received more than $338,000 from Ms Lee's law firm in 2017.(Reuters: Darren Staples)

In 2017, The Times newspaper reported Mr Gardiner had received more than £180,000 ($A338,000) to fund staffing by Ms Lee's law firm.

Mr Gardiner also said Ms Lee's son, who was employed in his parliamentary office as a diary manager, had resigned from his role on Thursday.

"I have been liaising with our Security Services for a number of years about Christine Lee and they have always known, and been fully aware by me, of her engagement with my office and the donations she has made to fund researchers in my office," the statement said.

"Steps were taken to ensure Christine Lee had no role in either the appointment or management of those researchers."

Mr Gardiner said MI5 told him they had no intelligence Ms Lee's son was aware or complicit in his mother's activities.

Comment has been sought from China's embassy in London.

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Home Secretary Priti Patel said that it was "deeply concerning" someone had engaged in political interference on behalf of the CCP to target politicians.

"This development has come as a result of the strong structures the United Kingdom has in place to identify foreign interference or any potential threats to our democracy," she said on Twitter.

Ms Patel also said there were "forthcoming measures" set to be introduced to build upon safeguards already in place to combat hostile activity.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news



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