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MPs Warned As Suspected Chinese Agent Named After MI5 Investigation

MPs were sent the warning about Christine Lee following an investigation by the security services

4 min read

MPs have been told that a Chinese national named Christine Lee is accused of "facilitating financial donations to serving and aspiring politicians".

Parliamentary authorities issued a warning to MPs and Peers after the security services identified Lee as engaging in "political interference activities" on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party.

Lee, who has donated tens of thousands to both the Labour Party and Brent North MP Barry Gardiner through her firm of solicitors, is alleged to have "covertly" facilitated financial donations to "serving and aspiring" politicians on behalf of Chinese nationals.

Gardiner, who previously served as international development secretary, has been repeatedly questioned about the links with Lee, whose son, Daniel Wilkes, works in his Westminster office.

According to the Commons register of staff interests from February 2020 a further two members of Gardiner's team were also paid by Lee's firm for work they were doing in Parliament.

The donations, provided by Christine Lee & Co Solicitors, first began in early 2005, with £4,000 given to the local Labour Party in Hendon.

Subsequent donations amounting to £675,586 have been made, including a mixture of cash donations and 'non cash' contributions towards staffing costs.

Gardiner, who received his first donation from the firm in 2015, has received tens of thousands, including a cash donation of £31,680 in 2018. The size of donations meant he topped the donations table in 2018, having received more funding than any other MP in Westminster.

The Labour MP has previously defended his relationship with Lee, saying he had never been "improperly influenced" by the firm, and said his employment of Wilkes was via an "open appointment process".

The 'interference alert' from security services includes claims that Lee has targeted Parliamentarians across different parties on behalf of the Chinese state.

Lee's influence in public life also lead to her receiving a 'Points of Light' award in 2019 from then-Prime Minister Theresa May for her work with the "British Chinese Project".

In a personal letter to Lee, the former PM said she should be "very proud" of the progress her project had made in "promoting engagement, understanding and cooperation" between the Chinese and British communities.

But the group have now been cited in the warning notice to Parliamentarians, which also flagged her role in the now-disbanded all-party Chinese in Britain group.

According to the Electoral Commission, the firm also made a £5,000 cash donation to the Liberal Democrats in early 2013.

The revelations have raised concerns among MPs, including senior Conservative Ian Duncan Smith, who has been sanctioned by the Chinese government over his warnings of Beijing's interference.

Speaking on Thursday, he told MPs the report was of "grave concern" as he called for further details to be released about Lee's activities.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said she understood it would be "deeply concerning" that Lee had "knowingly engaged in political interference activities" on behalf of China.

"This development has come as a result of the strong structures the United Kingdom has in place to identify foreign interference or any potential threats to our democracy," she tweeted.

"Where necessary, proportionate action is always taken to mitigate these threats, thanks to our world-leading intelligence and security agencies.

"Forthcoming measures to counter these kind of threats will build on the robust safeguards already in place, making our country even harder for states to conduct hostile activity in."

Responding to the report, Gardiner told Sky News that he had been "liaising with our security services for many years" about Lee and that her son had resigned from his staff earlier today.

"Steps were taken to ensure Christine Lee had no role in either the appointment or management of those researchers," he said.

"They are also aware that I have not benefitted personally from those donations in any way. She ceased funding any workers in my office in June 2020.

"All the donations were properly reported in the register of members’ interests and their source verified at the time.

"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."

No MPs are suspected of any criminality and Lee has not been arrested as a result of the probe.

The Labour Party have been approached for comment.

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