Chinese agent infiltrates UK Parliament, says MI5

Image source, Reuters

A covert Chinese agent has infiltrated Parliament to interfere with UK politics, MI5 has revealed.

An alert from the security service said Christine Ching Kui Lee "established links" for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) with current and aspiring MPs.

She then gave donations to politicians, with funding coming from foreign nationals in China and Hong Kong.

MI5 said anyone contacted by Lee should be "mindful of her affiliation" and its "remit to advance the CCP's agenda".

Conservative MP and former party leader, Sir Iain Duncan Smith, brought up the alert in the Commons, confirming it had been emailed out to MPs by the Speaker.

He said it was "a matter of grave concern", calling for Lee to be deported and demanding the government make a statement to the House.

Former defence minister Tobias Ellwood also called for a statement in the Commons, adding: "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."

Issuing an alert about an individual is an unusual move for MI5.

It signals that their long-running investigation had led them to become sufficiently concerned that they felt they had to act now.

We have heard about concerns over Russian influence in the past but China, British intelligence officials say, has now become their top priority.

The allegation here is interference – covertly gaining influence – and not espionage (stealing secrets).

And one concern from security officials is that there are not the laws in place to be able to tackle interference.

As a result, they sometimes believe that going public – as they have done in this case – is the best way of disrupting any ongoing risk.

According to the alert, Lee claimed her involvement with Parliament had been to "represent the UK Chinese and increase diversity".

But MI5 said that activity "had been undertaken in covert coordination with the United Front Work Department [of the CCP], with funding provided by foreign nationals located in China and Hong Kong".

The security service said she had "extensive engagement with individuals across the UK political spectrum", including the now disbanded All Party Parliamentary Group called Chinese in Britain.

But they warned Lee "may aspire to establish APPGs [parliamentary groups] to further the CCP's agenda".

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