A Chinese ‘spy’ outed by MI5 targeted the ‘highest levels of Government’, including former prime ministers, it was revealed last night.
In an unprecedented move, spy chiefs yesterday issued a security alert to MPs over solicitor Christine Lee, 58.
She sought to influence a string of politicians and succeeded in establishing powerful links ‘right to the top of the British establishment’, security sources said.
A warning memo sent to MPs said her ‘political interference activities on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party’ have been secretly monitored by the security services for years.
The twice married mother of two from the West Midlands has openly given around £670,000 to the Labour Party since 2005, including donating more than £600,000 to Brent North MP Barry Gardiner – who employed her son.
But yesterday it was revealed she also courted a wide range of Tory and Labour MPs, cultivating contacts with cabinet ministers and prime ministers in what was described by MI5 as a deeply sinister campaign of ‘interference across British democracy’.
A Chinese ‘spy’ outed by MI5 targeted the ‘highest levels of Government’, including former prime ministers, it was revealed last night. In an unprecedented move, spy chiefs yesterday issued a security alert to MPs over solicitor Christine Lee, 58
She sought to influence a string of politicians and succeeded in establishing powerful links ‘right to the top of the British establishment’, security sources said
Ms Lee is pictured shaking hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping
Last night the Home Secretary Priti Patel warned of more national security alerts to follow, saying the UK had ‘other adversaries’ who would ‘look to interfere or come into our country in some shape and way’.
In an extraordinary security scandal, the Communist agent was welcomed into Downing Street in 2019, where she received an award from then-prime minister Theresa May in recognition of her contribution to good relations with China.
The award was rescinded last night, but Mrs May praised her at the time for ‘promoting engagement, understanding, and cooperation between the Chinese and British communities in the UK’, adding: ‘I also wish you well with your work to further the inclusion and participation of British-Chinese people in the UK political system.’
And she received a Woman of the Year gong from the GG2 Leadership Awards in 2013.
Miss Lee also formed close links with David Cameron when he was prime minister as the only Chinese member of his 2010 business delegation to China.
Last night there were questions about how she managed to get so close to Downing Street, given her prominent position within the hostile state as a photograph emerged of her shaking hands with Chinese president Xi Jinping.
The impeccably connected Chinese spy hid in plain sight while cosying up to MPs by offering donations, hampers and paying for trips abroad.
Miss Lee has been chief legal adviser to the Chinese embassy in London and a legal adviser to the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office, an agency overseen by the United Front Work Department (UFWD), which manages the vast network of influence of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Yet she was also the secretary of the Inter-Party China Group of the British Parliament.
A photo of Ms Lee in front of 10 Downing Street in 2019 shows the iconic door draped with red banners displaying New Year couplets in Chinese characters and announcing the ‘Golden Era’ of Sino-British relations. She is accompanied by Alex Yip, a Tory councillor in Birmingham and vice-chairman of the British Chinese Project
Pictures posted to Facebook show Ms Lee with prominent politicians including former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, deputy Tom Watson and disgraced ex-MP Keith Vaz
Ms Lee, a London-based solicitor and a former chief legal adviser to the Chinese embassy in London, speaking to former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in 2016. She is also the secretary of the Inter-Party China Group at Westminster.
Since 2005, she has donated large sums to Labour. She gave about £670,000 to the party, mostly to Jeremy Corbyn ally Mr Gardiner, almost all of it for his staffing costs. In 2014 she helped sponsor a Chinese Liberal Democrats’ dinner to support the party’s then-candidate for Somerton and Frome, Sarah Yong.
According to the alert sent to all MPs and peers in Westminster yesterday, she also made covert payments to serving and aspiring MPs on behalf of politicians in China and Hong Kong.
The MI5 message said: ‘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. 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.’
In an accompanying letter, Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said among those targeted was the now-disbanded Chinese in Britain All Party Parliamentary Group, of which Mr Gardiner was chairman.
Last night there was no sign of her at the £985,000 home on a gated estate in Solihull, West Midlands, which she shares with her British solicitor husband.
Miss 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 she suggested the activity was ‘under the criminal threshold’.
The Home Secretary warned: ‘We’re speaking specifically right now about the CCP, China, but we live in a world where we have other adversaries, and they all look to interfere or come into our country in some shape and way. We are big players internationally, the United Kingdom, our place in the world is very strong. And so we’re naturally a country of interest. I think it’s fair to say in the future, we’ll see more alerts of this nature.’
It comes at a time of hardening attitudes toward China at the top of Government, culminating most recently in a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics.
Sir Iain Duncan Smith, who has been involved in helping Hong Kong-Chinese people flee the Communist regime, expressed concern they could now be at risk as a result of Lee’s activities.