MI5 has issued a rare warning to MPs that a Chinese agent has infiltrated Parliament to interfere in UK politics.
According to a security alert, Christine Ching Kui Lee “established links” for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) with current and aspiring legislators.
She then made donations to politicians, with funds coming from Chinese and Hong Kong residents.
It follows a “significant, long-running” investigation by MI5, according to Whitehall sources.
Anyone contacted by Ms Lee should be “mindful of her affiliation” and its “remit to advance the CCP’s agenda,” according to the security service.
Sir Iain Duncan Smith, a Conservative MP and former party leader, raised the alert in the Commons, confirming that it had been emailed to MPs by the Speaker.
He called it a “grave concern,” demanding that Ms Lee be deported and that the government make a statement to the House.
Former defence minister Tobias Ellwood also called for a Commons statement, saying, “This is the kind of grey-zone interference we now anticipate and expect from China.”
“However, given that it has occurred in this Parliament, there must be a sense of urgency from this government.”
It is unusual for MI5 to issue a warning about a specific individual.
It indicates that their lengthy investigation had piqued their interest to the point where they felt compelled to act now.
We’ve heard about concerns about Russian influence in the past, but according to British intelligence officials, China is now their top priority.
The allegation in this case is of interference, not espionage (stealing secrets).
Security officials are also concerned that there aren’t enough laws in place to deal with interference.
As a result, they may believe that going public, as they have in this case, is the best way to disrupt any ongoing risk.
Ms Lee claimed her involvement in Parliament was to “represent the UK Chinese and increase diversity,” according to the alert.
However, MI5 stated that the activity “had been carried out in covert coordination with the United Front Work Department [of the CCP], with funding provided by foreign nationals based in China and Hong Kong.”
The UFWD is said to be attempting to “cultivate relations” with “influential figures” in order to ensure the CCP’s political landscape in the UK is favourable to the party and to challenge those who raise concerns about the party, including human rights concerns.
Ms Lee had “extensive engagement with individuals across the UK political spectrum,” according to the security service, including the now-disbanded All Party Parliamentary Group called Chinese in Britain.
They did, however, warn Ms Lee that she “may aspire to establish APPGs [parliamentary groups] to further the CCP’s agenda.”