Britain’s domestic intelligence agency, MI5, is coming under political pressure to explain why it did not alert lawmakers sooner about the activities of a suspected Chinese spy, now known as the Security Service “deliberately engaging in political interference in the UK”. ” says.
British security agencies have been warning of China increasing espionage activities in the country in recent months, but alleged spy Christine Lee, a 59-year-old mother of two children and legal adviser to the Chinese embassy, has been allowed to work non-stop. were given and even received. An award in 2019 from 10 Downing Street.
According to a rare alert sent by MI5 to House of Commons officials on Thursday, Li helped fund political parties and lawmakers from China and spent the best part of three decades establishing relationships with politicians and high-travellers. spent in
MI5 Alert said that Li is an agent for the United Front Work Department, a department that reports directly to the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The alert said it was using financial donations to reach out to British politicians and exert political influence. One of the biggest beneficiaries was senior Labor MP Barry Gardiner.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin on Friday denied the allegations.
“China has always adhered to the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries,” he said during a press briefing in Beijing. “We have no need to engage in so-called interference activities and we will not. Some people may have watched too many ‘007’ movies, which could result in too many unnecessary engagements.”
The Chinese embassy in Britain said the allegations against Li were part of a campaign of “intimidation against the Chinese community in the UK”.
Between 2015 and 2020, Lee’s law firm based in the English city of Birmingham donated $900,000 to Gardiner alone to run its office. The Labor legislator appointed one of Lee’s sons to his personal office. Gardiner told a London broadcaster that Christine Lee would seek her views on “who was up and who was down in politics”.
And in a statement, the British lawmaker said he had been “in contact with our security services for many years” about Lee and that he had correctly reported all donations. Gardiner briefly served as Labor’s chief spokesperson on energy and climate change and international trade. He has taken a generally pro-Beijing stance and has been a supporter of a controversial nuclear power plant being built in Britain in partnership with a Chinese-state-owned energy company.
But no impropriety has been suggested on his part by the British authorities. Gardiner said MI5 had advised him that there was no intelligence showing Lee’s son, Daniel Wilkes, “was aware of, or was involved in, his mother’s illegal activity.”
After receiving a warning from MI5, Speaker of the House of Commons Lindsey Hoyle alerted lawmakers on Thursday, saying that Li “engaged in political interference activities on behalf of the Communist Party of China, including members of parliament and related political institutions”. are targeting.” He said MI5 had informed him that Lee had hidden the origin of donations made to serving and interested lawmakers.
Born in China, Lee established a home in the English Midlands in the 1980s and a successful law firm with its head office in Birmingham and branches in London’s Chinatown, Beijing, Hong Kong and Guangzhou. He is believed to be a naturalized British citizen.
The security minister, Damien Hinds, said on Friday that it would be reviewed how Lee managed to make connections with the installation figures. Hinds said the incident showed how rival countries were trying to interfere in British politics.
“You have operators who specialize in trying to find ways to get into influential positions and work in different ways,” he told Sky News.
Hinds said, “It’s a story, an event, an item about how other states can affect our country in different ways, one of which is political interference, and one way to do that.” is through the provision of finance.”
Ian Duncan Smith, a former Conservative Party leader, has called for a comprehensive review, including an investigation into why lawmakers were warned not long ago by the security services about Lee, who has been donating to British politicians for 17 years. are giving.
“Why is such an agent allowed in this country in the name of heaven?” he asked Thursday in the House of Commons.
British officials say Lee was suspected of trying to influence several lawmakers, regardless of his party affiliation. Many MPs, including seniors from the Conservative, Labor and Liberal Democrat parties, received donations and had access to a succession of British prime ministers. In 2019, she received the Point of Light Award from the then Prime Minister Theresa May for her work on behalf of the British-Chinese community. The award was canceled on Thursday.
A middle-aged, spectacled and respected lawyer, Lee would seem at first glance to be an unlikely detective. But British intelligence officials say his espionage was a textbook case of influence peddling, enlisting the aid of sympathizers and identifying potential recruits.
“People think spying is all glamorous James Bond stuff,” a serving British intelligence officer told VOA. “But Li’s role was not to steal state and military secrets, but to make his way into political and business circles to open avenues of influence and usefulness for China’s foreign-policy purposes,” he said.
“He is a classic case of an undercover hiding in plain sight,” he said.
Certainly, Lee was no less important. She was an acquaintance in the British Parliament, and did not hide her high-level ties with the Chinese political establishment. His law firm advised the Chinese embassy, and his photo is erected next to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
In December, Richard Moore, the head of Britain’s foreign intelligence agency MI6, said the rise of China was the “single biggest priority” for his officials. He warned that Beijing was increasing its espionage activities and focusing on politicians and government employees and those employed in industries and universities who could be useful to the CCP.
“They also monitor and attempt to exert undue influence on Chinese migrants,” he said.