British authorities suspect a Chinese spy active in parliament

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London (AFP) – Britain’s security services have warned MPs that a suspected Chinese agent is “knowingly engaging in political interference” in parliament, authorities said on Thursday.

The office of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle confirmed that it had emailed MPs advising them of the incident, in consultation with the security services.

“The President takes the safety of members and the democratic process very seriously, which is why he issued this advisory in consultation with the security services,” a spokeswoman for Hoyle said.

The Chinese Embassy in London has denied the charges, saying “we have no need and never seek to ‘buy influence’ in a foreign parliament.

“We strongly oppose the defamation and intimidation against the Chinese community in the UK,” he added.

The security notice named the suspect Christine Lee, saying she had “knowingly engaged in political interference activities on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department.”

The London-based lawyer has reportedly donated £200,000 ($275,000, 239,000 euros) to former Labor shadow cabinet member Barry Gardiner and hundreds of thousands of pounds to his party.

Former Prime Minister Theresa May – whose Tories have been accused of benefiting from millions in Russian money – presented Lee with an award in 2019 to recognize his contribution to China-British relations.

Lee was also pictured with May’s predecessor David Cameron at a 2015 event, and separately with former Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Lee “facilitated financial donations to sitting and aspiring parliamentarians on behalf of foreign nationals based in Hong Kong and China,” the president’s memo said, according to British media.

“This facilitation was done covertly to hide the origin of the payments. This is clearly unacceptable behavior and steps are being taken to ensure it stops,” he added.

Iain Duncan Smith, a former Conservative leader and outspoken critic of Beijing, demanded firm action after Britain’s MI5 intelligence agency warned of Lee’s activities.

“I say, as a member of parliament who has been sanctioned by the Chinese government, this is a matter of grave concern,” he said.

Last year, China imposed sanctions on 10 British organizations and individuals, including Duncan Smith, for what it called spreading “lies and disinformation” about human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

Lee was not arrested or expelled, merely barred from entering parliament, he complained.

Former Conservative defense minister Tobias Ellwood told the Commons that ‘this is the kind of gray area interference we now anticipate and expect from China’.

“But the fact that this has happened in this parliament, there must be a sense of urgency from this government.”

Gardiner said Christine Lee’s son had been employed as his newspaper’s editor but quit on Thursday.

In a statement, he said all of his donations had been properly reported and that any suggestion of shady money was not linked to his office, but that he “has been in liaison with our security services” for many years. about her.