British security services have warned members of parliament that a suspected Chinese agent “knowingly engaged in political interference activities” inside parliament, authorities said on Thursday.
British House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle confirmed that it had e-mailed MPs to tell them of the incident, in consultation with the security services.
“The Speaker takes the security of members and the democratic process very seriously, which is why he issued this notice in consultation with the security services,” a spokeswoman for Hoyle said.
The Chinese embassy in London denied the accusations, saying: “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 added.
The security notice named the suspect as Christine Lee, saying that she had “knowingly engaged in political interference activities on behalf of the United Front Work Department of the Chinese Communist Party.”
The London-based solicitor reportedly donated ￡200,000 (US$274,647) to former Labour Party shadow cabinet member Barry Gardiner and hundreds of thousands of pounds to his party.
Former British prime minister Theresa May — whose Conservative Party has been accused of benefiting from millions in Russian money — presented Lee with an award in 2019 to recognize her contribution to Sino-UK ties.
Lee was also photographed with May’s predecessor, former British prime minister David Cameron, at an event in 2015, and separately with former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Lee “facilitated financial donations to serving and aspiring parliamentarians on behalf of foreign nationals based in Hong Kong and China,” a statement from the speaker said, according to British media.
“This facilitation was done covertly to mask the origins of the payments. This is clearly unacceptable behavior and steps are being taken to ensure it ceases,” it added.
Iain Duncan Smith, a former Conservative leader and vocal critic of Beijing, demanded strong action after Britain’s MI5 intelligence agency warned of Lee’s activities.
“I say, as a member of parliament who has been sanctioned by the Chinese government, that this is a matter of grave concern,” he said.
China last year imposed sanctions on 10 UK organizations and individuals, including Duncan Smith, over what it called the spreading of “lies and disinformation” about human rights abuses in Xinjiang.
Lee has not been arrested or deported, merely barred from entering parliament, he said.
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