British lawmakers were warned Thursday about a woman suspected of “political interference activities” on behalf of Beijing.
In an email sent to U.K. parliamentarians, seen by POLITICO, House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle cited a warning from British intelligence services naming Christine Lee as a suspected Chinese agent.
Parliamentary records show that Lee, a solicitor, has donated money to Labour MP Barry Gardiner, formerly the party’s international trade spokesperson. Gardiner employed Lee’s son as a manager in his office, and Lee was also named a so-called Point of Light — an award for “outstanding individual volunteers” — by No. 10 Downing Street for her work running nonprofit group the British Chinese Project.
“I am writing now to draw your attention to [an] Interference Alert issued by the Security Service, MI5, about the activities of an individual, Christine Lee, who has been engaged in political interference activities on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party, engaging with Members here at Parliament and associated political entities, including the former APPG: Chinese in Britain,” Hoyle’s email read, referring to an all-party parliamentary group chaired by Gardiner.
And Hoyle added: “I should highlight the fact that Lee has facilitated financial donations to serving and aspiring parliamentarians on behalf of foreign nationals based in Hong Kong and China. This facilitation was done covertly to mask the origins of the payments. This is clearly unacceptable behaviour and steps are being taken to ensure it ceases.”
A similar message has also been sent to members of the House of Lords.
Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, who has himself faced sanction by Beijing, told MPs Thursday the warning was “a matter of grave concern.”
In a statement, Gardiner confirmed Lee’s son had resigned from his office Thursday, and said intelligence services had found no evidence the staffer was aware of his mother’s alleged activity.
The Labour MP said he had been “liaising with our Security Services for a number of years about Christine Lee and they have always known, and been made fully aware by me, of her engagement with my office and the donations she made to fund researchers in my office in the past.”
And he said steps had been taken “to ensure Christine Lee had no role in either the appointment or management of those researchers,” and that security authorities were aware he had “not benefitted personally from those donations in any way.”
“I have been assured by the Security Services that whilst they have definitively identified improper funding channelled through Christine Lee, this does not relate to any funding received by my office,” Gardiner said.
Lee did not respond to a request for comment.
Stuart Lau, Esther Webber