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Parliament was hit by a major security alert today as spooks warned MPs that a Labour donor was a Chinese agent trying to improperly influence them.

The woman, named as 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.

She is a west London solicitor who has donated hundreds of thousands of pounds to former Labour minister Barry Gardiner.

She is also 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. 

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

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.

An attached alert said she was ‘knowingly engaged in political interference activities on behalf of the United Front Work Department of the Chinese Communist Party’.

Conservative former leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith told MPs this afternoon that he understood MI5 had contacted Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle about the matter. 

The woman, Christine Lee, has been monitored by the security services for some time

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

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

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

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

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.

 

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Raising a point of order in the Commons, Sir Iain said the Speaker has emailed MPs.

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.’

The email, revealed by The Sun, 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.’

Lee 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.

A photo of 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.

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!)’

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. 

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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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.’

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