MI5 has warned that a Chinese government agent has been working in parliament “to subvert the processes”, MPs have been told.
A letter was sent to MPs by Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle who said MI5 warned him a woman called Christine Lee has been “engaged in political interference activities on behalf of the Chinese Community Party, engaging with members here at parliament”.
MI5 sent out an “interference alert” warning Ms Lee has “facilitated financial donations to serving and aspiring parliamentarians on behalf of foreign nationals based in Hong Kong and China…done covertly to mask the origins of the payments”.
The security service said the Chinese lawyer has been involved with MPs and hopeful MPs as well as members of the now-disbanded all-party parliamentary group, Chinese in Britain.
In the alert, it said: “Lee has acted covertly in coordination with the United Front Work Department of the Chinese Communist Party (UFWD) and is judged to be involved in political interference activities in the UK.”
Sir Lindsay told MPs if they have been approached by Ms Lee they should contact the director of security for parliament.
Donations to Barry Gardiner
Labour frontbencher and former minister Barry Gardiner has been named as an MP who accepted donations from the Chinese woman, and he confirmed her son was working for him but resigned today.
The MPs’ register of interests shows Ms Lee has made about £500,000 in donations to parliamentarians, many of them to Mr Gardiner.
He told Sky News he has been liaising with MI5 “for a number of years” about Ms 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”.
Mr Gardiner added: “Steps were taken to ensure she 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 MI5 has assured him funding Ms Lee provided to him was not through “improper” means.
Mr Gardiner added that her son had been working for him as a diary manager but he resigned earlier on Thursday and MI5 said they “have no intelligence that shows he was aware of, or complicit in, his mother’s illegal activity”.
Chinese sanctioned Tory raises concern
Leading Tory Iain Duncan Smith, who China has placed sanctions on for speaking up against its treatment of the Uyghurs, brought the letter up in the Commons on Thursday.
He said: “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.”