Britain’s MI5 domestic spy service warned about a Chinese agent “engaged in political interference activities” in the United Kingdom on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle sent an email to MPs on Thursday alerting them to a woman named Christine Lee. Lee was “interacting with members here in Parliament” in coordination with the CCP’s United Front Work Department (UFWD), an organization known to exert Chinese influence abroad.
She “has facilitated financial donations to serving and aspiring parliamentarians on behalf of foreign nationals based in Hong Kong and China,” Hoyle says in the letter.
Adding that the United Front Work Department “seeks to cultivate relationships with influential figures to ensure the U.K. political landscape is favorable to the CCP’s agenda and to challenge those that raise concerns about CCP activity, such as human rights,” The Associated Press reports.
“This is a matter of grave concern,” Iain Duncan Smith, a former leader of Britain’s ruling Conservative Party who China has sanctioned for exposing human rights abuses in Xinjiang, told Parliament. He also criticized the leniency with which authorizations to enter the House are handled and questioned the fact that the Chinese spy was not deported.
Meanwhile, former defense minister Tobias Ellwood told Parliament, “This is the sort of grey-zone interference we now anticipate and expect from China.”
According to Euro News, Britain’s Home Secretary Priti Patel told reporters that Lee’s current actions were below the criminal threshold for prosecution, but that by issuing the alert, the government was able to warn lawmakers about the Chinese spy’s attempts to influence them unduly.
Nevertheless, Patel stated that it is “deeply troubling” that a person working on behalf of the CCP would target lawmakers.
British intelligence officials claim the CCP has tried to steal intellectual property, also accusing it of interfering in domestic politics and sowing misinformation.
Britain’s relations with China have deteriorated in recent years over allegations by some parliamentarians on the issue of human rights abuses in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.
The CCP sanctioned nine British politicians in 2021, branding them liars and spreading false information after they highlighted regime abuses in Xinjiang in Parliament.
Meanwhile, in November, the head of the overseas intelligence agency, Richard Moore, called China one of Britain and its allies’ biggest threats.