Christine Lee: UK ‘Chinese agent’ warning draws China’s scorn

The Chinese government and Hong Kong lawmakers have lashed out at the UK after its MI5 intelligence agency warned that a suspected spy had infiltrated parliament to improperly influence British politicians on China’s behalf.

Christine Lee, a 58-year-old Sino-British lawyer, has been accused of trying to influence UK lawmakers while facilitating donations from high-profile people in Hong Kong and mainland China, according to a security briefing broadcast Thursday to parliamentarians and their colleagues.

Former Labor Secretary Barry Gardiner received more than £500,000 from Ms Lee’s law firm to cover staff costs, while much smaller sums went to Labor headquarters and Liberal Democrats leader Ed Davey.

The alleged agent, a London-based lawyer, received an award from Theresa May when she was prime minister in 2019, and former leader David Cameron was photographed speaking at an event in 2016 for a Chinese “engagement” group founded by Lee.

Foreign Office officials raised concerns with the Chinese ambassador to the UK over the matter, but the Chinese embassy in London denied the allegations Thursday night, saying it had “no need to ‘buy influence’ in a foreign parliament.

“We strongly oppose the smear and bullying against the Chinese community in the UK,” the embassy spokesman said in the statement.

Former Hong Kong CEO Chun-ying Leung has also criticized the UK government and accused London of double standards.

“If political donations from China and Hong Kong are considered acts of espionage, there are too many British spies in Hong Kong making direct or indirect donations and promoting the ‘Western agenda’ with legislators such as lawyers, professors and NGOs,” he wrote in his Facebook page. “These people would then all be spies. »

Regina Ip, a top adviser to Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, made a similar comment on Twitter.

He said the Chinese-controlled territory could, to the same extent, bring charges against foreign rights activists, referring to Benedict Rogers by name, who have consistently raised concerns about deteriorating civil liberties there.

On the Chinese social media platform Weibo, the independent identified several posts expressing sarcastic “disbelief” at the extent of China’s alleged infiltration campaign. “Have we infiltrated the British parliament yet? It’s amazing,” one user wrote.

“Are we now powerful enough to interfere with the British parliament? wrote another user. “Are we going to be accused of interfering in the queen’s domestic affairs?” »

Other netizens in China and Hong Kong accused the UK of hypocrisy and questioned whether all US and UK donations to Hong Kong would be considered infiltration attempts. Some Weibo users said MI5’s warning could be part of a coordinated smear campaign by the West ahead of the start of the Beijing Winter Olympics next month.

“Western countries have come together again to create rumours,” the netizen wrote. “Whenever China is about to host major events, it will always do something like this. The tactic is getting very old and tiring.

The allegation against Ms Lee is interference to gain covert influence in the UK and not intelligence gathering, Whitehall sources say.

UK Home Secretary Priti Patel said tougher laws were needed because Ms Lee’s activity was “below the criminal threshold”, warning that more security threats like the one issued on Monday were likely. Thursday.

the independent has contacted Ms. Lee’s law firm for comment.

Regina Anderson

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