Security Minister Damien Hinds has said there is a need to review how a suspected Chinese agent has come so close to senior British politicians.
I5 has taken the rare step of warning lawmakers that Christine Li – a prominent London-based lawyer – is involved in “political interference activities” on behalf of China’s ruling communist regime.
The Chinese embassy dismissed the claims, alleging “cheating and intimidation” against the Chinese community in Britain, while a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said the British “are very obsessed with James Bond 007 films”.
However, Mr Hinds said the security services are aware of Lee’s activities – including funding British politicians in an effort to secure influence “for the time being”.
“Of course, it’s a concern,” he told Sky News. “But it’s an example of how our system works, it’s our world’s leading intelligence and security services that are finding it and finding a way to circumvent it.”
In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin dismissed the claims, accusing the UK government of “making baseless allegations and hyping China’s threat” to serve its own purposes.
“It is extremely irresponsible to make sensationalist remarks based on heard evidence and some people’s guesses,” he said.
Among those accepting donations from Lee is senior Labor MP Barry Gardiner, who received more than £500,000 over six years to cover staffing costs in his office as well as appointing his son as his diary manager.
Li also received an award from Theresa May for her work on a project promoting good relations between the Chinese and British communities in Britain, and was a VIP when David Cameron hosted President Xi Jinping in London. was a guest.
Asked whether there will now be a review into how he operated for so long, Mr Hinds told LBC: “Yeah. We are learning all the time, of course all the implications have to be taken into account.”
In a Security Service Interference Alert (SSIA) sent to lawmakers and peers, MI5 said Li “acted in secret” in coordination with the United Front Work Department (UFWD) of the Communist Party of China (CCP).
It said it was “engaged in facilitating financial donations to political parties, MPs, aspiring MPs, and individuals seeking political office in the UK, including facilitating donations on behalf of foreign nationals to political institutions”.
After the disclosure, Mr Gardiner said he had contacted security services for several years regarding his contacts with Lee, but only learned on Thursday that she had engaged in “illegal activity”.
In a statement, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in London denied the claims of political interference.
“China has always adhered to the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries,” the statement said.
“We have no need, and never will, to ‘buy influence’ in any foreign parliament. We strongly oppose threats to malign and intimidate the Chinese community in the UK.”