China accuses UK of 'smears and intimidation' over parliament spy scandal

14 January 2022, 08:22 | Updated: 14 January 2022, 10:21

The Chinese Embassy has hit back at the Parliament 'spy' scandal
The Chinese Embassy has hit back at the Parliament 'spy' scandal. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

The Chinese Embassy has branded accusations that a suspected agent was active in Parliament as a "trick of smearing and intimidation".

Westminster was rocked yesterday after it emerged MI5 had issued a warning about espionage in the heart of Britain's democracy.

The Security Service told MPs that lawyer Christine Lee was cultivating relationships with British politicians to bring about a "political landscape" in the UK which was "favourable" to China.

House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle also emailed parliamentary staff to warn about her. She donated about £500,000 to Labour MP Barry Gardiner, who told LBC he felt "abused" by her actions.

Sir Lindsay said Ms Lee had been "engaged in political interference activities on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party", "engaging with Members here at Parliament" and a now-defunct All-Party Parliamentary Group called "Chinese in Britain".

But the Chinese Embassy issued a strongly-worded statement over the affair.

"China always adheres to the principle of non-interference in other country's internal affairs," a spokesperson said.

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"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 sent a Security Service Interference Alert to MPs and peers in Parliament, warning Ms Lee "acted covertly" with the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) United Front Work Department (UFWD).

"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 alert said.

"Lee has been engaged in the facilitation of financial donations to political parties, parliamentarians, aspiring parliamentarians, and individuals seeking political office in the UK, including facilitating donations to political entities on behalf of foreign nationals."

Speaking to LBC's Iain Dale, Mr Gardiner said: "I feel very abused by it and very upset.

"I assume they believe that I was somebody that would play a role in the political system in this country and that they might at some stage be able to leverage that. They haven’t been able to.

"I've made sure that they've not been able to by the precautions that I've taken, by speaking to the security services, by being open and transparent in all cases and by making sure that actually at all stages I speak my mind, whether it's about China or about anything else."

He said Ms Lee's son had left his employment on Thursday morning, and said there was no intelligence his son was aware of what his mother is accused of doing.