The People's Republic of China has denied allegations that it has interfered in UK politics, after MI5 said that Chinese agent, lawyer Christine Ching Kui Lee, had “established links” with MPs on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party [CCP].
Lee has been accused of having had “extensive engagement with individuals across the UK political spectrum” by MI5, and the security services have suggested that she could “aspire to establish All Party Parliamentary Groups” to “further the CCP’s agenda”.
It has been uncovered that Lee’s engagement with politicians to date has reached the extent of distributing large donations, with Labour MP Barry Gardiner having received over £420,000 from her legal firm, Christine Lee & Co in 2014.
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey was also handed a donation of £5,000 from Lee, during his stint as energy secretary which lasted between 2012 and 2015.
In the wake of the security alert raised against Lee, Gardiner said that he had been “liaising with security services” over her conduct for a “number of years”, insisting that all donations were properly declared and that Lee had not gained any political advantage through him.
He told Sky News: “From my point of view, that money was there to improve the work I was able to do in Parliament, and to improve the work I was able to do for my constituents - it paid for those researchers, and it paid for them directly, none of it was for my personal benefit.”
In its security warning against Lee, MI5 shared its conclusions that activity had “been undertaken in covert coordination with the United Front Work Department [a branch of the CCP], with funding provided by foreign nationals located in China and Hong Kong”.
The United Front Work Department has also been accused of trying to “cultivate relations” with “influential” individuals in the UK, to engineer a political landscape in Britain that is favourable to the Chinese state.
Conservative MP Sir Iain Duncan Smith told the Commons on Thursday that the allegations against Lee were a “matter of grave concern”, calling for the government to make a statement to the Commons on the matter and act decisively by deporting her.
Home secretary Priti Patel echoed Sir Iain’s concerns, calling it “deeply concerning” that an individual that “has knowingly engaged in political interference activities on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party” sought to “target parliamentarians”.
Lee has claimed that her involvement with politicians was for the purpose of “representing the UK Chinese and increasing diversity”, while the Chinese Embassy in London has defended her and accused British security services of “smearing and intimidation”.
The Embassy said in a statement: “China always adheres to the principle of non-interference in other country's internal affairs. We have no need and never seek to 'buy influence' in any foreign parliament. We firmly oppose the trick of smearing and intimidation against the Chinese community in the UK.”
Photo taken from Wikimedia Commons