The MI5, Britain's domestic intelligence service, has warned MPs that a Chinese agent by the name of Christine Ching Kui Lee has infiltrated Westminster to interfere in UK politics. Beijing has denied the accusations.
The alleged spy was said to have established ties on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) with deputies and would-be deputies and according to the BBC, she facilitated donations to politicians. Lee is a London-based lawyer who is very well integrated into the British establishment. Former Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May presented Lee with an award in 2019 for her contribution to Sino-British ties. The award was rescinded Thursday.
Lee has also donated £ 200,000 (€239,000) to former Labor shadow government member and current MP Barry Gardiner, and hundreds of thousands more to the party. Gardiner said in a statement that all donations received were properly declared and that he was in contact for years with the Kingdom's security services in relation to the lawyer's work.
The lawyer has also been photographed at public events with May's predecessor, David Cameron, at an event in 2015, and separately with former Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Despite these allegations, Lee has neither been arrested nor expelled from the country. But she was in fact banned from entering Parliament. Interior Minister Priti Patel said this development is the result of the solid structures that the United Kingdom put in place to identify foreign interference.
MI5 now say Lee was knowingly engaged in political interference in the UK, while British security agencies have been warning in recent months about China's increasing espionage activity in the country.
The 59-year-old Lee is a mother of two and a legal adviser to the Chinese embassy in London. According to a rare alert sent by MI5 Thursday, Lee facilitated and channeled financial donations from China to political parties and parliamentarians and spent the best part of three decades establishing connections with politicians.
The MI5 alert said Lee was an agent for the United Front Work Department, a branch which reports directly to the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Certain people may have watched too many '007' movies, resulting in too many unnecessary associations, Beijing replied.
Born in China, Lee set up a home in the English Midlands in the 1980s and established a successful law firm with its main office in Birmingham and branches in London's Chinatown, Beijing, Hong Kong and Guangzhou. She is believed to be a naturalized British citizen.
People think spying is all glamorous James Bond stuff, a serving British intelligence officer told VOA. But Lee's role was not to steal state and military secrets but to insinuate her way into political and business circles in ways useful for China's foreign-policy aims and to open up avenues of influence, he added.
In December, Richard Moore, head of MI6, Britain's foreign intelligence agency, said the rise of China was the single greatest priority for his officers. He warned Beijing was increasing its espionage activities and focusing on politicians and government workers who could be useful to the CCP.