Foreign Office raises spy warning concerns with ambassador as China denies allegations

Christine Lee was given the Points of Light award by former Prime Minister Theresa May for her organisation the 'British Chinese Project'. Credit: British Chinese Project

The Foreign Office has raised concerns with the Chinese ambassador to the UK over a warning from MI5 that an agent engaged in “political interference activities” in the UK on behalf of the ruling communist party.

China denied the allegations late on Thursday night, saying it had “no need” to “buy influence” in any foreign parliament.

It came after it emerged that a senior Labour MP had received more than £500,000 in donations from a woman believed by MI5 to be a Chinese agent.

Barry Gardiner received the donations from Christine Ching Kui Lee – mainly to cover staffing costs in his office – over a period of six years, and employed her son as his diary manager.

ITV News Global Security Editor Rohit Kachroo and Asia Correspondent Debi Edward explain what we know about Christine Ching Kui Lee

The disclosures came after MI5 took the rare step of issuing MPs and peers with a warning about Ms Lee’s cultivating of British politicians to secure a “UK political landscape” that was “favourable” to China.

A spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in London denied the claims. “China always adheres to the principle of non-interference in other country’s internal affairs,” they said.

“We have no need and never seek to ‘buy influence’ in any foreign parliament. We firmly oppose the trick of smearing and intimidation against the Chinese community in the UK”.

It is understood that officials raised the security alert on Ms Lee - who is believed to live in Solihull in the West Midlands - with the Chinese ambassador on Thursday.

Home Secretary Priti Patel warned of further national security alerts. Credit: PA

The Home Secretary has said it is likely there will be more national security alerts like that issued over Ms Lee.

Priti Patel said the UK had “other adversaries” who would “look to interfere or come into our country in some shape and way.”

In the Security Service Interference Alert (SSIA) sent to MPs and peers, MI5 said Ms Lee “acted covertly” in co-ordination with the United Front Work Department (UFWD) of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

“The UFWD seeks to cultivate relationships with influential figures in order to ensure the UK political landscape is favourable to the CCP’s agenda and to challenge those that raise concerns about CCP activity, such as human rights,” it said.

“Lee has been engaged in the facilitation of financial donations to political parties, parliamentarians, aspiring parliamentarians, and individuals seeking political office in the UK, including facilitating donations to political entities on behalf of foreign nationals.”