China dismisses MI5’s claim that ‘spy’ tried to influence MPs as ‘smearing and intimidation’

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The offices of Christine Lee and Co in Wardour Street, central London  (PA Wire)
The offices of Christine Lee and Co in Wardour Street, central London (PA Wire)

China has dismissed MI5’s claim that an agent of the country attempted to infiltrate parliament as “smearing and intimidation”.

Beijing said it had “no need” to influence any foreign parliament after Britain’s security service warned an agent had engaged in “political interference activities” in the UK on behalf of the ruling communist party.

It followed a revelation that senior Labour MP Barry Gardiner had received donations from a woman thought to be a Chinese agent.

Mr Gardiner received the donations – amounting to more than £420,000 - from Christine Ching Kui Lee over a period of six years. Ms Lee’s son is understood to have volunteered for the Labour MP and was later employed as his diary manager.

Ms Lee had insisted she had sought to “represent the UK Chinese and increase diversity” through her work in parliament, MI5 said.

However, the security service claimed the activity “had been undertaken in covert coordination with the United Front Work Department [of the CCP], with funding provided by foreign nationals located in China and Hong Kong”.

“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,” the MI5 alert said.

A spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in London denied the claims on Thursday night.

“China always adheres to the principle of non-interference in other country’s internal affairs,” they said.

“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.”

MI5 claimed that Ms Lee had “extensive engagement with individuals across the UK political spectrum” and “may aspire to establish APPGs (parliamentary groups) to further the CCP’s agenda”.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the UK would likely see further national security alerts such as that issued over Ms Lee, stressing there were “other adversaries” who would “look to interfere or come into our country in some shape and way”.

Mr Gardiner defended his decision to accept the donations, saying Ms Lee appeared to be “operating as a legitimate person in the UK”.

The Labour MP, who formerly served in the shadow cabinet under then leader Jeremy Corbyn, told Sky News the money was accepted to “improve the work I was able to do for my constituents”.

He said he thought Ms Lee would have regarded her donations to his office as a “very poor investment” as he had been “critical of the Chinese government on many occasions”.

In an earlier statement, Mr Gardiner said he had been liaising with the security services for a number of years about his contacts with Ms Lee, who runs a law firm in central London.

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