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American News Jan 13, 2022 8:50 PM EST

MI5 warns that 'Chinese agent' has infiltrated Parliament to interfere in UK politics

MI5, the United Kingdom's domestic counter-intelligence and security agency, is warning MPs that a Chinese government agent has been working in parliament "to subvert the processes."

MI5 warns that 'Chinese agent' has infiltrated Parliament to interfere in UK politics
Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

MI5, the United Kingdom's domestic counter-intelligence and security agency, is warning MPs that a Chinese government agent has been working in parliament "to subvert the processes."

A letter sent by Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle to MPs said that MI5 warned him that a woman called Christine Lee has been "engaged in political interference activities on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party, engaging with members here at parliament," according to Sky News.

An "interference alert" was sent out by MI5 warning that 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."

Home Secretary Priti Patel said that there has been a longstanding investigation into Lee, but Thursday's revelations are "relatively new," noting that what she has been engaging in "is currently under the criminal threshold but the alert puts MPs on notice."

Patel said it was "deeply concerning" that someone "who has knowingly engaged in political interference activities on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party has targeted parliamentarians," according to the BBC.

MI5 said anyone contacted by Lee should be "mindful of her affiliation" and its "remit to advance the CCP's agenda."

According to the BBC, such an alert issued by MI5 for an individual is unusual, signaling that their investigation had led them to become sufficiently concerned that they felt they had to act immediately.

The alert reportedly states that Lee claimed her involvement with Parliament had been to "represent the UK Chinese and increase diversity."

MI5 said though that the activity "had been undertaken in covert coordination with the United Front Work Department [of the CCP], with funding provided by foreign nationals located in China and Hong Kong."

"The UFWD is alleged to be seeking to 'cultivate relations' with 'influential figures' to ensure the UK political landscape is favourable to the CCP and to challenge those that raise concerns about the party, including over human rights," the BBC reported.

MI5 said Lee had "extensive engagement with individuals across the UK political spectrum", including the disbanded All Party Parliamentary Group, called Chinese in Britain, and added that Lee "may aspire to establish APPGs [parliamentary groups] to further the CCP's agenda."

Lee, who runs the law firm Christine Lee & Co, has given donations to a number of Parliament members.

Labour Party member Barry Gardiner received over £420,000, or around $575,000 USD, from her over five years, but he said he had always made MI5 aware of her donations.

Lee's son also served as Gardiner's diary manager, but had resigned from his post on Thursday. Gardiner said that MI5 had no intelligence that showed the son was aware of his mother's activities.

Gardiner said he had been "liaising with our security services for a number of years" about Lee and they had "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."

"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," he added.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey received a £5,000, or around $6,800 USD, donation while he served as energy secretary, but he said the money was accepted by his local association and it was "the first time he has been given cause to be concerned".

A spokesman for the party said Davey was "shocked by these revelations", adding: "The email from the Speaker of the House of Commons today was the first time he has been given cause to be concerned about a donation to his local party association received in 2013," according to the BBC.

"The government must make it a national security priority to protect the UK's democracy from threats and interference by foreign actors," the statement continued. "This donation was reported properly and all rules and guidance was followed - as Ed expects is the case with donations made to colleagues across the House."

According to Sky News, "Lee has been pictured over the years with former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, talking to David Cameron in 2015 and was given a prize by Theresa May for 'promoting engagement, understanding and cooperation between the Chinese community and wider UK society.'"

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