MI5 has warned a suspected agent of the Chinese government has been active in the British Parliament, MPs have heard.
Conservative former leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, raising a point of order, told the Commons: “I understand that Mr Speaker has been contacted by MI5 and is now warning members of Parliament that there has been an agent of the Chinese government active here in Parliament working with a Member of Parliament, obviously to subvert the processes here.”
An MI5 notice named the suspected agent as Christine Lee, who the security service claims is “knowingly engaged in political interference on behalf of the United Front Work Department (UFWD) of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)”.
The Speaker of the House of Commons has written to all MPs warning them a solicitor whose firm donated hundreds of thousands of pounds to parliamentarians is feared to have been working for the Chinese Government. The Security Services have issued an alert and a picture of a Christine Lee who is thought to have been attempting to influence MPs.
Her affiliations are said to include the China Overseas Friendship Association and the British-Chinese Project and she is listed as a donor for Labour MP Barry Gardiner.
Lee’s son volunteered in the MP for Brent North’s office a number of years ago and was subsequently employed as his diary manager, Daniel Wilkes, resigned from his office today.
Christine Lee and her law firm have donated almost £373,000 worth of staff costs plus almost £55,000 in cash to Labour MP Barry Gardiner since 2015, according to Electoral Commission figures.
The firm, Christine Lee and Co Solicitors, donated a further £22,500 to Mr Gardiner’s local Labour Party between 2009 and 2015.
She has also donated a further £211,114 in staff costs to the central Labour Party between 2016 and 2019
Today Mr Gardiner said he had been liaising with the security services “for a number of years” about Ms Lee, and “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 benefitted personally from those donations in any way. She ceased funding any workers in my office in June 2020.”
He said all donations were properly reported, and “I have been assured by the Security Services that whilst they have definitively identified improper funding channelled through Christine Lee, this does not relate to any funding received by my office.”
The MP went on: “Christine Lee’s son volunteered in my office many years ago and was subsequently employed by me as a diary manager. He resigned from my employment earlier today.
“The Security Services have advised me that they have no intelligence that shows he was aware of, or complicit in, his mother’s illegal activity.”
Questions were first asked about her funding five years ago but no action was taken.
As well as embarrassment for Labour Ms Lee’s firm also donated £5,000 to the Liberal Democrats in 2005 and another £5,000 to now party leader Sir Ed Davey in 2013.
She also has links to the Conservatives. She appears to have also developed a good relationship with David Cameron while he was prime minister. And in January 2019, she received a Points of Light Award from then premier Theresa May, in recognition of her contribution to good relations with China.
The ‘leading and experienced’ Chinese lawyer, founder of a non-profit organisation called the British Chinese Project, was previously hailed by Mrs May under No10’s daily ‘Points of Light’ awards.
The then-PM told her: “I wish you well with your work to further the inclusion and participation of British-Chinese people in the UK political system.”
The citation at the time said Ms Lee had “devoted her life building a vibrant British-Chinese community that is integrated and fully represented within the British political and social scene.”
But today’s MI5 alert to MPs said Ms Lee is “working in coordination with the United Front Work Department (UFWD) of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).”
It added: “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 coordination with the UFWD, with funding provided by foreign nationals located in China and Hong Kong.”
Speaker Lindsay Hoyle sent a bombshell alert to MPs, saying: “Christine Lee has been engaged in political interference activities on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party, engaging with Members here at Parliament and associated political entities, including the former APPG: Chinese in Britain.
“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 security service claim Christine Lee “acted covertly” and is “judged to be involved in political interference activities in the UK”.
Conservative former leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith told MPs this afternoon that he understood MI5 had contacted Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle about the matter.
He said: ‘They key issue here is I understand that Mr Speaker has been contacted by MI5 and is now warning members of Parliament that there has been an agent of the Chinese government active here in Parliament working with a Member of Parliament, obviously to subvert the processes here.
‘I say, as a Member of Parliament who has been sanctioned by the Chinese government, that this is a matter of grave concern.’
In a statement today Mr Gardiner said he had been in contact with MI5 ‘for a number of years about Christine Lee and 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.’
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’ but the UK has measures in place ‘to identify foreign interference’.
What did the MI5 warning say?
The Security Service Interference Alert, regarding Christine Ching Kui Lee and issued by MI5, said Lee has “acted covertly” in co-ordination with the United Front Work Department (UFWD) of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and is “judged to be involved in political interference activities in the UK”.
It said: “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. The UFWD seeks to cultivate relationships with influential figures in order to ensure the UK political landscape is favourable to the CCP’s agenda and to challenge those that raise concerns about CCP activity, such as human rights.
“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.
“Lee has extensive engagement with individuals across the UK political spectrum. including through the now disbanded All-Party Parliamentary Chinese in Britain Group, and may aspire to establish further APPGs to further the CCP’s agenda.”
The alert warned that anyone contacted by her should be “mindful of her affiliation with the Chinese state and remit to advance the CCP’s agenda in UK politics”.
Of course, the Labour Party are not unfamiliar with having spies in their midst as the ‘The Electronic Intifada‘ revealed last year how Starmer hired a former Israeli spy to help manage Labour’s social media.
Assaf Kaplan a former Israeli military intelligence officer works within the offices of the Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer.
It’s claimed Assaf Kaplan served as an officer in the elite Unit 8200 It is also an elite institution whose graduates, after leaving service, can parlay their cutting-edge snooping and hacking skills into jobs in Israel, Silicon Valley or in this case a foreign countries opposition Party.