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Parliament was hit by a major security alert today as spooks warned MPs that a Labour donor with links to a former minister was a Chinese spy. 

Parliamentarians were told Christine Lee has been monitored by the security services for some time but has not been arrested and is not being expelled as it stands.

But a warning memo was sent to all MPs and peers in Westminster today by the Speaker’s Parliamentary security team, with an attached alert saying she was ‘knowingly engaged in political interference activities on behalf of the United Front Work Department of the Chinese Communist Party’. No politicians are suspected of any criminality.

Ms Lee is a London-based solicitor and a former chief legal adviser to the Chinese embassy in London and a legal adviser to the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office. She is also the secretary of the Inter-Party China Group at Westminster. 

She has donated more than £500,000 to Jeremy Corbyn ally Barry Gardiner, with her son, Daniel Wilkes, working in his office until today. She is also reported to have donated hundreds of thousands of pounds more to other parts of the Labour Party. 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 Ed Davey in 2013, when he was energy minister in the coalition government.

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 via the British Chinese Project.  

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’. 

Parliamentarians were told Christine Lee has been monitored by the security services for some time but has not been arrested and is not being expelled as it stands.

Parliamentarians were told Christine Lee has been monitored by the security services for some time but has not been arrested and is not being expelled as it stands.

Parliamentarians were told Christine Lee has been monitored by the security services for some time but has not been arrested and is not being expelled as it stands. 

Ms Lee, a London-based solicitor and a former chief legal adviser to the Chinese embassy in London, speaking to former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in 2016. She is also the secretary of the Inter-Party China Group at Westminster.

Ms Lee, a London-based solicitor and a former chief legal adviser to the Chinese embassy in London, speaking to former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in 2016. She is also the secretary of the Inter-Party China Group at Westminster.

Ms Lee, a London-based solicitor and a former chief legal adviser to the Chinese embassy in London, speaking to former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in 2016. She is also the secretary of the Inter-Party China Group at Westminster.

A warning memo was sent to all MPs and peers in Westminster today by the Speaker's Parliamentary security team, with an attached alert saying Ms Lee, pictured here with former London mayor Ken Livingstone (second left) in 2012, was 'knowingly engaged in political interference activities on behalf of the United Front Work Department of the Chinese Communist Party'

A warning memo was sent to all MPs and peers in Westminster today by the Speaker's Parliamentary security team, with an attached alert saying Ms Lee, pictured here with former London mayor Ken Livingstone (second left) in 2012, was 'knowingly engaged in political interference activities on behalf of the United Front Work Department of the Chinese Communist Party'

A warning memo was sent to all MPs and peers in Westminster today by the Speaker’s Parliamentary security team, with an attached alert saying Ms Lee, pictured here with former London mayor Ken Livingstone (second left) in 2012, was ‘knowingly engaged in political interference activities on behalf of the United Front Work Department of the Chinese Communist Party’

A photo of Ms Lee in front of 10 Downing Street in 2019 shows the iconic door draped with red banners displaying New Year couplets in Chinese characters and announcing the 'Golden Era' of Sino-British relations. She is accompanied by Alex Yip, a Tory councillor in Birmingham and vice-chairman of the British Chinese Project

A photo of Ms Lee in front of 10 Downing Street in 2019 shows the iconic door draped with red banners displaying New Year couplets in Chinese characters and announcing the 'Golden Era' of Sino-British relations. She is accompanied by Alex Yip, a Tory councillor in Birmingham and vice-chairman of the British Chinese Project

A photo of Ms Lee in front of 10 Downing Street in 2019 shows the iconic door draped with red banners displaying New Year couplets in Chinese characters and announcing the ‘Golden Era’ of Sino-British relations. She is accompanied by Alex Yip, a Tory councillor in Birmingham and vice-chairman of the British Chinese Project 

She is a west London solicitor who has donated hundreds of thousands of pounds to former Labour minister Barry Gardiner (right, pictured in 2013).

She is a west London solicitor who has donated hundreds of thousands of pounds to former Labour minister Barry Gardiner (right, pictured in 2013).

She is a west London solicitor who has donated hundreds of thousands of pounds to former Labour minister Barry Gardiner (right, pictured in 2013).

A warning memo was sent to all MPs and Peers in Westminster today by the Speaker's Parliamentary security team, and no politicians are suspected of any criminality.

A warning memo was sent to all MPs and Peers in Westminster today by the Speaker's Parliamentary security team, and no politicians are suspected of any criminality.

A warning memo was sent to all MPs and Peers in Westminster today by the Speaker’s Parliamentary security team, and no politicians are suspected of any criminality.

Ms Lee is a solicitor with an office in central London. She is a former chief legal adviser to the Chinese embassy in London and a legal adviser to the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office.

Ms Lee is a solicitor with an office in central London. She is a former chief legal adviser to the Chinese embassy in London and a legal adviser to the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office.

Ms Lee is a solicitor with an office in central London. She is a former chief legal adviser to the Chinese embassy in London and a legal adviser to the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office.

Former PM David Cameron addresses a British Chinese Project event in a photo posted in 2016

Former PM David Cameron addresses a British Chinese Project event in a photo posted in 2016

Former PM David Cameron addresses a British Chinese Project event in a photo posted in 2016

Sir Iain Duncan Smit

Sir Iain Duncan Smit

Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle

Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle

Conservative former leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith (left) said this afternoon that he understood MI5 had contacted Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle (right) about the matter

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.

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.

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.

Who is Christine Lee? 

Christine Lee is a solicitor whose firm has offices in Beijing, Hong Kong and Guangzhou, as well as London.

Her links to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) go deep. She has been chief legal adviser to the Chinese embassy in London and a legal adviser to the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office, an agency of the Communist Party’s vast network of influence overseen by its United Front Work Department.

These positions are unmistakable signs of her importance to the Party. Yet she is also the secretary of the Inter-Party China Group of the British parliament.

In 2006 she founded the British Chinese Project, whose stated aim is to ’empower the UK Chinese community, making them aware of their democratic rights and responsibilities, whilst ensuring the needs and interests of the community are heard at a political level’. It sounds a very worthy multicultural enterprise

But its Chinese name has different echoes. It translates as ‘British Chinese Participation in Politics’, linking it to the huaren canzheng infiltration policy of the CCP to maximise political influence in democracies by promoting trusted people of Chinese heritage. 

Lee’s involvement in British politics began during the prime ministership of Tony Blair, when she formed an alliance with Labour MP and minister Barry Gardiner, more recently Labour’s shadow international trade secretary.

Her law firm donated more than £200,000 to the MP and his constituency party. In 2007, while a Blair government minister, Gardiner became the chair of her British Chinese Project and the two of them embarked on a programme of making friends in Westminster, boosted by Gardiner’s formation in 2011 of ‘an all-party group to represent Chinese citizens in Britain’.

One of Lee’s children, Michael Wilkes, became its vice chairman while another son, Daniel, worked in Gardiner’s parliamentary office, with his salary paid by his mother’s firm.

The firm defended these political links when approached in 2020, saying: ‘Christine Lee & Co is proud of its record of public service and the support it has provided to the democratic process. We have never sought to influence any politician improperly or to seek any favours in return for the support that we have provided.’

Gardiner said her son had volunteered in his office before securing employment through an open appointment process and that he had never been ‘improperly requested by, or influenced by’ the firm in his political work.

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He added: ‘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.

‘I will continue to work closely with our security services in this and all other matters that relate to the security of our country.’

Her Birmingham-based law firm donated more than £200,000 to the MP and his constituency party. In 2007, while a Blair government minister, Gardiner became the chair of her British Chinese Project.

A photo of Ms Lee in front of 10 Downing Street shows the iconic door draped with red banners displaying New Year couplets in Chinese characters and announcing the ‘Golden Era’ of Sino-British relations. 

A Daily Mail investigation in 2020 revealed Mr Gardiner benefited from more than £500,000 support from Ms Lee’s firm.

According to the Commons Register of Interests, since 2015 Mr Gardiner has received £542,000 in staff costs from Christine Lee & Co. 

Today’s email from the Speaker to MPs said: ‘I am writing now to draw your attention to the attached Interference Alert issued by the Security Service, MI5, about the activities of an individual, Christine Lee, who 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.’ 

Conservative former defence minister Tobias Ellwood also told the chamber: ‘This is the sort grey-zone interference we now anticipate and expect from China.

‘But the fact that it’s happened to this Parliament, there must be a sense of urgency from this Government.’

He also asked for a Government statement to be made on Thursday to enable MPs to understand the impact of the actions and the intended response.  

In 2019 Ms Lee was awarded a Ray Of Light Award by Ms May for her work with the British Chinese Project.

In a personal message, Ms May said: ‘You should feel very proud of the difference that ‘The British Chinese Project’ is making in promoting engagement, understanding, and cooperation between the Chinese and British communities in the UK. 

‘I also wish you well with your work to further the inclusion and participation of British-Chinese people in the UK political system.’ 

This afternoon Tory MP Bob Seely, who is a member of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, expressed concern that a Chinese agent appeared to have been operating in Parliament.

‘It’s clearly serious that there appear to be actual agents of a foreign, adversarial power in Parliament. I congratulate MI5 on their work,’ he told the PA news agency.

‘However, I do fear that we have been complacent about the threat posed by the Chinese Communist regime, in much the same way that we were and in some respects still are complacent about Russian influence peddling in the UK.

‘We should remember that co-opting, subverting and corrupting in today’s world is often done not through formal agents, but often through informal agents: people such as powerful business people and oligarchs, think tanks, through the funding of universities and the use of ‘lawfare’, etc.

‘This is why we need a comprehensive approach to Russia and China that understands the comprehensive nature of the problem. We are improving but we need to do more.’

The alert comes a week after the head of MI6 thanked China’s state news agency for ‘free publicity’ after it released a mock video ridiculing the UK’s growing interest in Beijing.

In a rare public remark, Richard Moore issued a light-hearted riposte to the James Bond satire posted by China’s Xinhua News. 

The video mocked the Western intelligence community’s focus on China, poking fun at its alleged propaganda capabilities and the Huawei technology fall-out.

Mr Moore – codenamed C – responded on Twitter: ‘Thank you for your interest (and the unexpected free publicity!)’

Pictures posted to Facebook show Ms Lee with prominent politicians including former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, deputy Tom Watson and disgraced ex-MP Keith Vaz

Pictures posted to Facebook show Ms Lee with prominent politicians including former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, deputy Tom Watson and disgraced ex-MP Keith Vaz

Pictures posted to Facebook show Ms Lee with prominent politicians including former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, deputy Tom Watson and disgraced ex-MP Keith Vaz

A spoof James Bond video (pictured) made by China's state news agency backfired after the head of MI6 thanked them for the 'free publicity' last week

A spoof James Bond video (pictured) made by China's state news agency backfired after the head of MI6 thanked them for the 'free publicity' last week

A spoof James Bond video (pictured) made by China’s state news agency backfired after the head of MI6 thanked them for the ‘free publicity’ last week

MI6 chief Richard Moore issued a light-hearted riposte to the James Bond satire

MI6 chief Richard Moore issued a light-hearted riposte to the James Bond satire

MI6 chief Richard Moore issued a light-hearted riposte to the James Bond satire

‘Clearly unacceptable behaviour’: What the email to MPs says 

‘I am writing now to draw your attention to the attached Interference Alert issued by the Security Service, MI5, about the activities of an individual, Christine Lee, who 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.’

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The spy chief also included a link to a speech he made last November in which he accused China of mounting large-scale espionage operations against the UK and its allies. 

In the speech, he said that adapting to a world increasingly dominated by China’s influence was the ‘single greatest priority for MI6’.

Mr Moore also warned about China’s use of ‘debt traps’, in which developing countries accept Beijing’s infrastructure loans only to eventually cede control as they struggle with repayments.

The tongue-in-cheek video posted on Twitter by Xinhua features two Chinese actors playing British spies called ‘James Pond’ and ‘Black Window’. 

In the video they poke fun at Mr Moore’s description of China as the UK’s top security threat. 

Entitled ‘No Time to Die Laughing’, a reference to last year’s James Bond film No Time to Tie, the clip shows the pair entering a castle where they discuss a dossier on China’s espionage tactics.

Pond, codenamed ‘Agent 0.07’, says: ‘Is there anything China doesn’t watch over?’

Alongside canned laughter, Pond describes the ‘fictional Chinese debt trap and data trap’ as a pathetic excuse to get more funding for British intelligence.

In 2020, the UK infuriated China by banning the technology company from supplying equipment to the 5G phone network.

Xinhua, which was set up by China Communist Party in 1931 as its press outlet, operates under close Government control.

In his recent speech at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Mr Moore warned China was using social media platforms to ‘facilitate their operations’.

He added: ‘We are concerned by the Chinese government’s attempt to distort public discourse and political decision making across the globe.’

The ‘Tiger woman’ devoted to promoting China’s interests in the west

To the casual observer, Christine Lee, 58, would appear to be a respectable British solicitor whose firm also has offices in Beijing, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, London and Birmingham.

But she was described two years ago by eminent authors Professor Clive Hamilton and Mareike Ohlberg as one of a number of so-called ‘Tiger Women’ with Anglo-Chinese heritage devoted to promoting China’s interests in the west.

Hidden Hand: how the Chinese Communist Party covertly influences the West, revealed in 2020 that officials had for years been cultivating contacts at the top of British politics and business.

The book claimed senior politicians – on both the Right and the Left – were acting as ‘useful idiots’ to push the Chinese line at the top of government.

And it seems little has changed since then.

Lee’s links to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) go deep. She has been chief legal adviser to the Chinese embassy in London and a legal adviser to the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office, an agency of the Communist Party’s vast network of influence overseen by its United Front Work Department.

Lee’s links to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) go deep. She has been chief legal adviser to the Chinese embassy in London and a legal adviser to the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office, an agency of the Communist Party's vast network of influence overseen by its United Front Work Department.

Lee’s links to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) go deep. She has been chief legal adviser to the Chinese embassy in London and a legal adviser to the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office, an agency of the Communist Party's vast network of influence overseen by its United Front Work Department.

Lee’s links to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) go deep. She has been chief legal adviser to the Chinese embassy in London and a legal adviser to the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office, an agency of the Communist Party’s vast network of influence overseen by its United Front Work Department.

These positions are, the authors argued, unmistakable signs of her importance to the Party. Yet she was also the secretary of the Inter-Party China Group of the British parliament.

Many are also in the 48 Group Club, nicknamed the ‘icebreakers’, a networking hub set up in the 1950s by members of the Communist Party of Great Britain.

Hamilton Ohlberg claimed this group is one of the most glaring examples of the way ‘Beijing courts Britain’s elites’.

Lord Heseltine and Lord Prescott are both listed as patrons of the group but Lord Heseltine said he did not think anyone would believe he was part of a Communist conspiracy.

The book’s authors stated: ‘In our judgement, so entrenched are the CCP’s influence networks among British elites that Britain has passed the point of no return, and any attempt to extricate itself from Beijing’s orbit would probably fail.’

In 2006 Lee founded the British Chinese Project (BCP), whose stated aim is to ’empower the UK Chinese community, making them aware of their democratic rights and responsibilities, whilst ensuring the needs and interests of the community are heard at a political level’.

It sounded a very worthy multicultural enterprise But its Chinese name has different echoes. It translates as ‘British Chinese Participation in Politics’, linking it to the huaren canzheng infiltration policy of the CCP to maximise political influence in democracies by promoting trusted people of Chinese heritage.

Lee had apparently been married five years earlier in Birmingham before she wed British solicitor Martin Wilkes in Solihull, West Midlands in 1990.

Their elder son Michael, 30, – now also a solicitor – was born in 1991 and his brother Daniel, 27, in 1994 and the family lived in the leafy Birmingham suburb of Coleshill. Both sons were born in Birmingham.

Martin Wilkes is listed, along with Ms Lee, as a director of Christine Lee & Co (Solicitors) Ltd. Other solicitor directors named in Companies House documents are David Tat Wai Ho and Jennifer Ho.

Political website Guido Fawkes yesterday reported that Lee ran BCP alongside her son Michael and in 2015 the pair congratulated Tory MP Alan Mak for his victory in the General Election, referring to ‘our Chinese candidates’.

Mr Mak – now a government whip – told Guido he had ‘never met [and] never spoke with [Lee]’, adding the BCP were a ‘bad bunch’ who he’d ‘always stayed away from’.

Lee’s involvement in British politics began during the prime ministership of Tony Blair, when she formed an alliance with Labour MP and minister Barry Gardiner, more recently Labour’s shadow international trade secretary.

Her law firm donated more than £500,000 to the MP and his constituency party. In 2007, while a Blair government minister, Gardiner became the chair of her British Chinese Project and the two of them embarked on a programme of making friends in Westminster, boosted by Gardiner’s formation in 2011 of ‘an all-party group to represent Chinese citizens in Britain’.

One of Lee’s children, Michael Wilkes, became its vice chairman while another son, Daniel, worked in Gardiner’s parliamentary office, with his salary paid by his mother’s firm.

The firm defended these political links in 2020, saying: ‘Christine Lee & Co is proud of its record of public service and the support it has provided to the democratic process. We have never sought to influence any politician improperly or to seek any favours in return for the support that we have provided.’

Mr Gardiner said at the time her son had volunteered in his office before securing employment through an open appointment process and that he had never been ‘improperly requested by, or influenced by’ the firm in his political work.

He issued a similar statement today, though adding this time that Daniel Wilkes had resigned from the MP’s office this morning.

THE MP has been a strong advocate of closer Sino-British relations. and investment in Britain by China’s sovereign wealth fund. He backed the construction of a nuclear power station at Hinkley Point by a state-owned Chinese corporation, which Theresa May’s government put on hold due to concerns about national security.

He is also reported as having strongly opposed internal party criticism of Chinese involvement in the Hinkley Point project.

Lee appeared to develop a good relationship with David Cameron while he was prime minister. In January last year, she received a Points of Light Award from Prime Minister May, in recognition of her contribution to good relations with China.

A photo of Lee in front of 10 Downing Street showed the iconic door draped with red banners displaying New Year couplets in Chinese characters and announcing the ‘Golden Era’ of Sino-British relations. The symbolism is blunt and powerful: Lee at the heart of Britain’s government, being embraced by it.

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