MI5 issues urgent warning to MPs about Chinese ‘spy’ trying to corrupt British politicians


Beware this woman: MI5 issues urgent warning to Commons about Chinese lawyer trying to corrupt UK politicians who has donated hundreds of thousands to Labour MP

  • Christine Lee, a London-based lawyer, has been monitored by the security services for some time 
  • However she has not been arrested and is not being expelled from the UK as it stands
  • Warning memo sent to all MPs by Speaker’s Parliamentary security team on behalf of MI5
  • Security service has contacted Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle and issued ‘interference alert’ 

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Parliament was hit by a major security alert today as spooks warned MPs that a Labour donor with links to a former minister was a Chinese spy. 

Parliamentarians were told Christine Lee has been monitored by the security services for some time but has not been arrested and is not being expelled as it stands.

But a warning memo was sent to all MPs and peers in Westminster today by the Speaker’s Parliamentary security team, with an attached alert saying she was ‘knowingly engaged in political interference activities on behalf of the United Front Work Department of the Chinese Communist Party’. No politicians are suspected of any criminality.

Ms Lee is a London-based solicitor and a former chief legal adviser to the Chinese embassy in London and a legal adviser to the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office. She is also the secretary of the Inter-Party China Group at Westminster. 

She has donated £200,000 to Jeremy Corbyn ally Barry Gardiner, with her son, Daniel Wilkes, working in his office until today. She is also reported to have donated hundreds of thousands of pounds more to other parts of the Labour Party. 

As well as embarrassment for Labour Ms Lee’s firm also donated £5,000 to the Liberal Democrats in 2005 and has links to the Conservatives.  She appears to have also developed a good relationship with David Cameron while he was prime minister.

And in January 2019, she received a Points of Light Award from then premier Theresa May, in recognition of her contribution to good relations with China.  

Conservative former leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith told MPs this afternoon that he understood MI5 had contacted Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle about the matter.   

He said: ‘They key issue here is 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.’

In a statement today Mr Gardiner said he had been in contact with MI5 ‘for a number of years about Christine 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 in the past.’

The woman, Christine Lee, has been monitored by the security services for some time

The woman, Christine Lee, has been monitored by the security services for some time

The woman, Christine Lee, has been monitored by the security services for some time

Ms Lee, centre, is a solicitor whose firm has offices in Beijing, Hong Kong and Guangzhou, as well as London

Ms Lee, centre, is a solicitor whose firm has offices in Beijing, Hong Kong and Guangzhou, as well as London

Ms Lee, centre, is a solicitor whose firm has offices in Beijing, Hong Kong and Guangzhou, as well as London

She is a west London solicitor who has donated hundreds of thousands of pounds to former Labour minister Barry Gardiner.

She is a west London solicitor who has donated hundreds of thousands of pounds to former Labour minister Barry Gardiner.

She is a west London solicitor who has donated hundreds of thousands of pounds to former Labour minister Barry Gardiner.

A warning memo was sent to all MPs and Peers in Westminster today by the Speaker's Parliamentary security team, and no politicians are suspected of any criminality.

A warning memo was sent to all MPs and Peers in Westminster today by the Speaker's Parliamentary security team, and no politicians are suspected of any criminality.

A warning memo was sent to all MPs and Peers in Westminster today by the Speaker’s Parliamentary security team, and no politicians are suspected of any criminality.

She is also a former chief legal adviser to the Chinese embassy in London and a legal adviser to the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office. She is also the secretary of the Inter-Party China Group at Westminster.

She is also a former chief legal adviser to the Chinese embassy in London and a legal adviser to the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office. She is also the secretary of the Inter-Party China Group at Westminster.

 She is also a former chief legal adviser to the Chinese embassy in London and a legal adviser to the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office. She is also the secretary of the Inter-Party China Group at Westminster.

Sir Iain Duncan Smit

Sir Iain Duncan Smit

Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle

Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle

Conservative former leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith (left) said this afternoon that he understood MI5 had contacted Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle (right) about the matter

In January 2019, she received a Points of Light Award from then premier Theresa May, in recognition of her contribution to good relations with China.

In January 2019, she received a Points of Light Award from then premier Theresa May, in recognition of her contribution to good relations with China.

In January 2019, she received a Points of Light Award from then premier Theresa May, in recognition of her contribution to good relations with China.

Who is Christine Lee? 

Christine Lee is a solicitor whose firm has offices in Beijing, Hong Kong and Guangzhou, as well as London.

Her links to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) go deep. She has been chief legal adviser to the Chinese embassy in London and a legal adviser to the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office, an agency of the Communist Party’s vast network of influence overseen by its United Front Work Department.

These positions are unmistakable signs of her importance to the Party. Yet she is also the secretary of the Inter-Party China Group of the British parliament.

In 2006 she founded the British Chinese Project, whose stated aim is to ’empower the UK Chinese community, making them aware of their democratic rights and responsibilities, whilst ensuring the needs and interests of the community are heard at a political level’. It sounds a very worthy multicultural enterprise

But its Chinese name has different echoes. It translates as ‘British Chinese Participation in Politics’, linking it to the huaren canzheng infiltration policy of the CCP to maximise political influence in democracies by promoting trusted people of Chinese heritage. 

Lee’s involvement in British politics began during the prime ministership of Tony Blair, when she formed an alliance with Labour MP and minister Barry Gardiner, more recently Labour’s shadow international trade secretary.

Her law firm donated more than £200,000 to the MP and his constituency party. In 2007, while a Blair government minister, Gardiner became the chair of her British Chinese Project and the two of them embarked on a programme of making friends in Westminster, boosted by Gardiner’s formation in 2011 of ‘an all-party group to represent Chinese citizens in Britain’.

One of Lee’s children, Michael Wilkes, became its vice chairman while another son, Daniel, worked in Gardiner’s parliamentary office, with his salary paid by his mother’s firm.

The firm defended these political links when approached last year, saying: ‘Christine Lee & Co is proud of its record of public service and the support it has provided to the democratic process. We have never sought to influence any politician improperly or to seek any favours in return for the support that we have provided.’

Gardiner said her son had volunteered in his office before securing employment through an open appointment process and that he had never been ‘improperly requested by, or influenced by’ the firm in his political work.

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He added: Christine Lee’s son volunteered in my office many years ago and was subsequently employed by me as a diary manager. 

‘He resigned from my employment earlier today. The Security Services have advised me that they have no intelligence that shows he was aware of, or complicit in, his mother’s illegal activity.

‘I will continue to work closely with our security services in this and all other matters that relate to the security of our country.’

Her law firm donated more than £200,000 to the MP and his constituency party. In 2007, while a Blair government minister, Gardiner became the chair of her British Chinese Project.

A photo of Ms Lee in front of 10 Downing Street shows the iconic door draped with red banners displaying New Year couplets in Chinese characters and announcing the ‘Golden Era’ of Sino-British relations. 

The email, revealed by The Sun, said: ‘I am writing now to draw your attention to the attached Interference Alert issued by the Security Service, MI5, about the activities of an individual, Christine Lee, who has been engaged in political interference activities on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party, engaging with Members here at Parliament and associated political entities, including the former APPG: Chinese in Britain.

‘I should highlight the fact that Lee has facilitated financial donations to serving and aspiring Parliamentarians on behalf of foreign nationals based in Hong Kong and China. This facilitation was done covertly to mask the origins of the payments. This is clearly unacceptable behaviour and steps are being taken to ensure it ceases.’

Sir Iain asked for the Government to also make a statement on the matter.

Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans said it was not the policy of the chair to comment in detail on security matters in the chamber.

He added: ‘I can assure the right honourable member that the House authorities are in regular contact with the appropriate Government agencies on this matter and we will update our advice and activities as necessary.’

Conservative former defence minister Tobias Ellwood also told the chamber: ‘This is the sort grey-zone interference we now anticipate and expect from China.

‘But the fact that it’s happened to this Parliament, there must be a sense of urgency from this Government.’

He also asked for a Government statement to be made on Thursday to enable MPs to understand the impact of the actions and the intended response. 

In 2019 Ms Lee was awarded a Ray Of Light Award by Ms May for her work with the British Chinese Project.

In a personal message, Ms May said: ‘You should feel very proud of the difference that ‘The British Chinese Project’ is making in promoting engagement, understanding, and cooperation between the Chinese and British communities in the UK. 

‘I also wish you well with your work to further the inclusion and participation of British-Chinese people in the UK political system.’ 

The alert comes a week after the head of MI6 thanked China’s state news agency for ‘free publicity’ after it released a mock video ridiculing the UK’s growing interest in Beijing.

In a rare public remark, Richard Moore issued a light-hearted riposte to the James Bond satire posted by China’s Xinhua News. 

The video mocked the Western intelligence community’s focus on China, poking fun at its alleged propaganda capabilities and the Huawei technology fall-out.

Mr Moore – codenamed C – responded on Twitter: ‘Thank you for your interest (and the unexpected free publicity!)’

Pictures posted to Facebook show Ms Lee with prominent politicians including former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, deputy Tom Watson and disgraced ex-MP Keith Vaz

Pictures posted to Facebook show Ms Lee with prominent politicians including former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, deputy Tom Watson and disgraced ex-MP Keith Vaz

Pictures posted to Facebook show Ms Lee with prominent politicians including former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, deputy Tom Watson and disgraced ex-MP Keith Vaz

A spoof James Bond video (pictured) made by China's state news agency backfired after the head of MI6 thanked them for the 'free publicity' last week

A spoof James Bond video (pictured) made by China's state news agency backfired after the head of MI6 thanked them for the 'free publicity' last week

A spoof James Bond video (pictured) made by China’s state news agency backfired after the head of MI6 thanked them for the ‘free publicity’ last week

MI6 chief Richard Moore issued a light-hearted riposte to the James Bond satire

MI6 chief Richard Moore issued a light-hearted riposte to the James Bond satire

MI6 chief Richard Moore issued a light-hearted riposte to the James Bond satire

‘Clearly unacceptable behaviour’: What the email to MPs says 

‘I am writing now to draw your attention to the attached Interference Alert issued by the Security Service, MI5, about the activities of an individual, Christine Lee, who has been engaged in political interference activities on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party, engaging with Members here at Parliament and associated political entities, including the former APPG: Chinese in Britain.

‘I should highlight the fact that Lee has facilitated financial donations to serving and aspiring Parliamentarians on behalf of foreign nationals based in Hong Kong and China. 

‘This facilitation was done covertly to mask the origins of the payments. 

‘This is clearly unacceptable behaviour and steps are being taken to ensure it ceases.’

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The spy chief also included a link to a speech he made last November in which he accused China of mounting large-scale espionage operations against the UK and its allies. 

In the speech, he said that adapting to a world increasingly dominated by China’s influence was the ‘single greatest priority for MI6’.

Mr Moore also warned about China’s use of ‘debt traps’, in which developing countries accept Beijing’s infrastructure loans only to eventually cede control as they struggle with repayments.

The tongue-in-cheek video posted on Twitter by Xinhua features two Chinese actors playing British spies called ‘James Pond’ and ‘Black Window’. 

In the video they poke fun at Mr Moore’s description of China as the UK’s top security threat. 

Entitled ‘No Time to Die Laughing’, a reference to last year’s James Bond film No Time to Tie, the clip shows the pair entering a castle where they discuss a dossier on China’s espionage tactics.

Pond, codenamed ‘Agent 0.07’, says: ‘Is there anything China doesn’t watch over?’

Alongside canned laughter, Pond describes the ‘fictional Chinese debt trap and data trap’ as a pathetic excuse to get more funding for British intelligence.

In 2020, the UK infuriated China by banning the technology company from supplying equipment to the 5G phone network.

Xinhua, which was set up by China Communist Party in 1931 as its press outlet, operates under close Government control.

In his recent speech at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Mr Moore warned China was using social media platforms to ‘facilitate their operations’.

He added: ‘We are concerned by the Chinese government’s attempt to distort public discourse and political decision making across the globe.’

What are debt traps? How China stands accused of tricking nations out of territory

Cash-strapped borrowers have been pushed to stake sovereign assets such as airports and seaports to access credit.

Western critics claim that this has been done through China’s ‘Belt and Road Initiative’.

First launched in 2013, and written into the Chinese constitution in 2017, it is billed by Beijing officials as a global infrastructure development fund which aims to better connect China to the rest of the world. 

In some nations, such as Montenegro, governments have signed up to deals in which China will be able to seize land if debts can’t be paid.

Similar concerns have been reported for countries including Uganda, Montenegro and Sri Lanka – which had to surrender one of its ports to Beijing.   

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