LONDON — Britain’s domestic intelligence service has warned lawmakers that a London-based lawyer is trying to “covertly interfere in U.K. politics” on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party.
On Thursday, House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle sent legislators an alert from the MI5 spy agency alleging that Christine Lee was acting in coordination with the Chinese ruling party’s United Front Work Department — an organization known to exert Chinese influence abroad.
MI5 said Lee had “facilitated” donations to British political parties and legislators “on behalf of foreign nationals.” Members of Parliament are required to declare the source of donations they receive, which must be from United Kingdom-registered electors or entities.
Lee is not accused of a criminal offense.
Barry Gardiner, a lawmaker for the left-of-center opposition Labour Party, received more than $685,000 from Lee between 2015-20, mostly for office costs, according to official records. Lee also made small donations to the Liberal Democrats almost 10 years ago.
Gardiner said he had not benefited financially from his association with Lee and only learned Thursday that Lee had been trying to “insinuate and influence” British politics.
“But I had been cautious because I knew she was a solicitor who acted for a number of a Chinese businesses in the U.K. over a very long period of time, and for that reason I had spoken openly and frankly with our security services for a number of years about the engagement that I had with her,” Gardiner told Sky News.
Gardiner said Lee’s son worked in his office as a diary manager but had resigned on Thursday. He said British intelligence believed the son was unaware “of his mother’s illegal activity.” Relations between Britain and China have grown increasingly frosty.