It has been described as a 'deeply concerning' development, as Global Security Editor Rohit Kachroo reports
A Chinese government agent has been working within the British Parliament in an attempt to “subvert the processes”, MPs have been told.
The agent is named as Christine Ching Kui Lee who was working for the United Front Work Department (UFWD) of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Home Secretary Priti Patel said it was “deeply concerning” that an individual “who has knowingly engaged in political interference activities on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party has targeted parliamentarians” but the UK has measures in place “to identify foreign interference”.
ITV News Global Security Editor Rohit Kachroo and Asia Correspondent Debi Edward explain what we know about Christine Ching Kui Lee
Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle, in a letter sent to MPs and seen by the PA news agency, warned that Christine Lee had been “engaged in political interference” for the Chinese Communist Party and sought to lobby parliamentarians including through a former all-party parliamentary group (APPG).
The letter 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."
It continued: “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.
“I would also like to take this opportunity to remind colleagues of their responsibilities to verify the source of any donation they receive to ascertain whether it is from a permissible source, and their obligation to record the source of donations in the Register of Interests, or report to the Electoral Commission as appropriate.”
Priti Patel calls the discovery 'relatively new'
A Security Service Interference Alert warned that anyone contacted by her should be “mindful of her affiliation with the Chinese state and remit to advance the CCP’s agenda in UK politics”.
Brent North Labour MP Barry Gardiner, who has received donations from Christine Lee in the past, said he had been “liaising with our security services” for many years about her.
In a statement he said: “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.
“Steps were taken to ensure Christine Lee had no role in either the appointment or management of those researchers. They are also aware that I have not benefited personally from those donations in any way. She ceased funding any workers in my office in June 2020.”
He said all the donations were properly reported and “their source verified at the time”, and added: “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.”
Mr Gardiner said Christine Lee’s son, who had been employed as his diary manager, resigned earlier on Thursday.
Mr Gardiner said in a statement: “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.”
Conservative former defence minister Tobias Ellwood said in the Commons: “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.”