The story looks like something out of a Hollywood movie: a Chinese spy allegedly tried to influence British parliamentarians. The woman had been active politically for years, she even received a medal.
Britain’s domestic secret service has warned London’s parliament against a suspected Chinese spy. The office of House of Commons spokesperson Lindsay Hoyle confirmed Thursday that it had emailed MPs “in consultation with security services” about the incident. Interior Minister Priti Patel said a person tried to influence parliamentarians “for the Chinese Communist Party”.
According to Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith, Hoyle has been “contacted by MI5”. He warned lawmakers that a “Chinese government agent was active in parliament.”
The MI5 warning, cited by UK media, identifies the suspected agent as Christine Lee. According to this, the party “knowingly participated in political interference activities on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Labor Department.”
They say the spy acted as a mediator
The London-based lawyer is said to have acted as an intermediary by “making financial contributions to political parties, MPs, aspiring MPs and those considering political office in the UK”. Lee is said to have donated £ 200,000 to opposition politician Barry Gardiner and hundreds of thousands more to his Labor Party. The money came from foreign nationals from China and Hong Kong.
Lee was apparently well connected in the London government quarter. She was pictured with former Tory Prime Minister David Cameron at an event in 2015 and on another occasion with former Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn. In 2019, Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May awarded Lee a medal for his contribution to Britain’s good relations with China.
“We strongly oppose bullying in the UK”
The Chinese Embassy in London denied the espionage allegations, saying, “We should never and never try to buy influence in a foreign parliament.” She added, “We strongly oppose the defamation and intimidation against the Chinese community in the UK.”
Barry Gardiner, who has since resigned, said all donations were duly reported. He also said Lee’s son worked for him until he stepped down on Thursday.
Conservative MP Duncan Smith has expressed concern that Lee will not be arrested, but only barred from entering Parliament. He also called for a review of the parliamentary accreditation rules. Former Defense Secretary Tobias Ellwood told the House of Commons the allegations were “the kind of gray area interference we now expect from China.”