Britain needs to be braced for more Chinese-style spy scandals, Priti Patel warns

17 January 2022, 17:38

The UK is expected to see more alerts about foreign interference with politics, the Home Secretary has warned
The UK is expected to see more alerts about foreign interference with politics, the Home Secretary has warned. Picture: Alamy

By Megan Hinton

The UK is expected to see more alerts about foreign interference with politics, the Home Secretary has warned, after MI5 uncovered a Chinese spy trying to influence MPs in Westminster.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Speaking about the security alert issued to MPs and peers after the announcement that solicitor Christine Lee was a Chinese spy, Priti Patel said warnings will become "commonplace" in the UK.

The Home Secretary said Lee's connections with MPs were designed to make the UK's political landscape "more favourable" to Chinese government interests.

Mrs Patel told MPs on Monday: "We can expect to see these kinds of alerts become more commonplace as a result of the work of our world class intelligence agencies who have adapted to counter these new and emerging threats.

"We are developing new national security legislation to make it even harder for a malign state to conduct such activities. We are also taking further steps to protect the integrity of our democracy, tackling electoral fraud and preventing foreign interference in elections, with the Elections Bill.

Read more: Home Secretary vows to 'push back' migrant boats as Navy takes command in Channel

Read more: Navy will tell PM to 'get stuffed' on Channel plans, veteran tells James O'Brien

"We will introduce new legislation to provide the security services and law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to disrupt the full range of state threats."

It come after it was revealed a senior Labour MP received more than £500,000 in donations from Christine Ching Kui Lee.

Barry Gardiner received the donations - mainly to cover staffing costs in his office - over a period of six years, and employed her son as his diary manager.

While the Labour Party said centrally it had received some £5,000.

The Home Secretary also told MPs: "As anyone would expect, these investigations continue and they are still ongoing.

"In this case, the aim was to make the UK political landscape more favourable to the Chinese authorities' agenda and to challenge those... who raise concerns about the Chinese authorities' activities on very pressing issues such as human rights.

"I, like all members across this House, was utterly appalled that an individual who has knowingly engaged in political interference activities on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party for a number of years targeted members of this Parliament."

Read more: Four day working week pilot scheme launched by 30 companies

Read more: Brit tsunami victim died on Tongan beach trying to save her dogs, brother reveals

It was revealed today that the Chinese agent also targeted "aspiring" members of Parliament.

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper expressed concerns in response to the alert, stating the Home office could not afford to be "complacent" when it came to threats from Russia and China.

She said: "The information received by the Speaker from the Security Service last week was obviously extremely serious and we condemn in the strongest terms the attempts by China to interfere in Britain's democratic process.

"Clearly the work is important that has been done, but I would be very concerned if this meant that the Home Secretary and the Home Office were complacent in this area, because we have seen a series of important warnings about attempts by both Russia and China to interfere in both the Russian report and also in the report from the Committee on Standards in Public Life, particularly about the risks from foreign money."