Britain’s MI5 spy agency warns lawmakers of Chinese influence

Britain’s MI5 spy agency warns lawmakers of Chinese influence

MI5 sent out an alert and photo of a woman named Christine Lee on Thursday alleging that she was “involved in political interference activities” in the UK on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party.

Spokesman Lindsay Hoyle, who distributed the MI5 alert to lawmakers, said MI5 found Lee “facilitated financial donations to serving and aspiring parliamentarians on behalf of foreign nationals residing in Hong Kong and China.”

Hoyle said Li was involved in the now-dissolved All-Party Parliamentary Group, the Chinese Parliamentary Group in Britain.

Britain’s Home Secretary Priti Patel told reporters that Lee’s behavior was currently below the criminal threshold for her to prosecute, but said that by putting on the alert, the government had been able to warn lawmakers of Lee’s attempts to improperly influence them.

Patel said it was “deeply concerned” that an individual working on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party had targeted the lawmakers.

Lee is the founder of a law firm with offices in London and Birmingham, according to a government official. “We’re not taking any calls right now,” said a woman who answered the phone in the Birmingham office. A request for comment left in the London office was not answered.

The law firm lists on its website one of its roles as legal counsel for the Chinese Embassy in Britain.

The Chinese embassy in London did not respond to a request for comment.

political donations

Barry Gardiner, the opposition Labor MP, said he had received donations of hundreds of thousands of pounds from Lee and said he had been in contact with the intelligence services for “a number of years” about it.

“They have always known, and been thoroughly taught by me, of her connection to my office and the donations I’ve made to fund researchers in my office in the past,” Gardiner said.

Gardiner hired Lee’s son as memoirs manager but quit on Thursday.

Ian Duncan Smith, the former leader of Britain’s ruling Conservative Party who was sanctioned by China for highlighting alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang, has called for an urgent update from the government on the issue.

He questioned why the women were not deported and called for tighter accreditation process for people with access to Parliament, which he said was too lenient.

Lee is listed with the law firm of Christine Lee & Co as a UK citizen on financial filings with Companies House, the UK Companies Registry.

Former Secretary of Defense Tobias Ellwood told Parliament of her alleged activity: “This is the kind of gray area intervention that we expect and now expect from China.”

Britain’s relations with China have deteriorated in recent years due to issues including Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

Last year, MI5 urged British citizens to treat the espionage threat from Russia, China and Iran with the same vigilance as terrorism.

British spies say China and Russia have sought to steal commercially sensitive data and intellectual property, as well as interfere in domestic politics and sow disinformation.

The Chinese ambassador to Britain was prevented from attending an event in the British Parliament last year because Beijing imposed sanctions on lawmakers who highlighted alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

China imposed sanctions on nine British politicians in March last year for spreading what it said were “lies and misinformation” about the treatment of Uighur Muslims in the far west of the country.

(Reporting by Andrew McCaskill; Editing by John Boyle and Hugh Lawson)

Written by Andrew McCaskill

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