Iain Duncan Smith gives stark warning over China

‘China is a threat… NOT a competitor’: Iain Duncan Smith accuses ‘successive governments’ of being ‘asleep at the wheel’ over Beijing’s influence at heart of Westminster while ex-MI5 chief says ministers failed to act on warnings

  • Christine Lee, a London-based lawyer, has been monitored by security services  
  • However she has not been arrested and is not being expelled from the UK
  • A warning was sent to all MPs by the Speaker’s security team on behalf of MI5 
  • Security service contacted Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle to issue ‘interference alert’

Former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith has said the targeting of MPs by suspected Chinese agent Christine Lee was ‘just the tip of the iceberg’.

In an interview with Sky News’ Trevor Phillips On Sunday programme today, he said that ‘successive governments have been completely asleep at the wheel’ over the issue.

‘China, over the years, has so dominated us in a way that we are now completely dependent on them on a whole series of items and articles.

‘Far too many officials and ex-ministers then left and retired and gone and taken money from China, so the very fact that they are in trying to persuade and infiltrate and subvert people within our political system is nothing new at all, but the worst bit about it is that too many governments seem too cautious about calling it out.’

Mr Duncan Smith said it was ‘very important that we recognise China as a threat, not as a competitor’.

He called China’s ruling communist party a ‘brutal, dictatorial, ghastly regime’.  

Parliamentarians were told Christine Lee has been monitored by the security services for some time but has not been arrested and is not being expelled as it stands. 

Christine Lee and David Cameron at the ceremony of the British GG2 leadership awards in 2015

On Thursday, a rare warning was issued to all MPs by MI5 containing allegations about lawyer Christine Ching Kui Lee, 58, amid concerns that she was not being open about her connections to the Chinese state. 

The secret service has stated that foreign interference is a ‘live and present threat’ to democracy, The Sunday Times reports.

Lord Evans of Weardale, the current chairman of the committee of standards in public life and former head of MI5 between 2007 and 2013, said government ministers did not follow recommendations his committee made to protect British politics from ‘powerful forces’ trying to bring ‘undue influence’, following a report last year.

He said: ‘This current case demonstrates why we should be closing loopholes because there are quite powerful forces out there that are trying to bring undue influence, part through parliament and part through money. 

‘We made some recommendations to close some of those loopholes but [the] government hasn’t acted on them.’ 

Home Secretary Priti Patel said her activity was ‘under the criminal threshold’ and Whitehall sources confirmed Miss Lee will not be expelled after MI5 issued an alert on Thursday warning MPs about her penetration of Parliament

The Chinese solicitor exposed as an alleged Communist agent by MI5 boasted of her influence with ‘government ministers, senior civil servants and peers’. Miss Lee’s access in Whitehall also included getting inside the Home Office. (Above, during her visit)

During the course of her political activities, Christine Lee donated more than £600,000 to the campaign office of Barry Gardiner, Labour’s Shadow International Trade Secretary, and bankrolled several of his staff. Her own son was hired by Mr Gardiner’s office as a diary manager before resigning last week.

Lee denies wrongdoing and sources close to her claim she is shocked by the allegations.  

Yesterday, Gardiner, 64, said he had previously approached the security services about Lee and asked whether he should cease to engage with her, but was not advised to do so.

He said: ‘I was told by the security services that they had now got specific evidence of illegal donations into British politics via Christine Lee, but that this did not relate to the properly recorded donations to my office. The question is – where did the tainted money go?’ 

Miss Lee’s boasts of helping Chinese entrepreneurs seek opportunities in the UK and obtain visas have raised concerns she could have brought in other agents. Above, promotional material for her law firm

In a YouTube video, Chinese spy Christine Lee hinted at the scale of her ambitions in 2015, describing efforts to lobby ‘more than 480 MPs’ on behalf of the Chinese community as part of the British Chinese Project promoting closer relations. Her efforts paid off when Theresa May, who was pictured with Miss Lee at No 10 (above), presented her with an award for her work in 2019

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng’s officials are trying to establish if Mr Gardiner (pictured) tried to secure information about Britain’s civil nuclear programme

Ms Lee, is a former chief legal adviser to the Chinese embassy in London and a legal adviser to the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office. She is also the secretary of the Inter-Party China Group at Westminster.  

In addition to her donations to Barry Gardiner’s office, she is also reported to have donated hundreds of thousands of pounds more to other parts of the Labour Party. Questions were first asked about her funding five years ago but no action was taken. 

As well as embarrassment for Labour Ms Lee’s firm also donated £5,000 to the Liberal Democrats in 2005 and another £5,000 to now party leader Ed Davey in 2013, when he was energy minister in the coalition government.

She also has links to the Conservatives.  She appears to have also developed a good relationship with David Cameron while he was prime minister. And in January 2019, she received a Points of Light Award from then premier Theresa May, in recognition of her contribution to good relations with China via the British Chinese Project.  

‘Clearly unacceptable behaviour’: MI5’s unprecedented email to MPs

The security services issued a rare warning to MPs and peers amid fears an agent of the Chinese government has been active in Parliament.

On Thursday a Security Service Interference Alert was issued by MI5 containing allegations about Christine Ching Kui Lee after concerns were raised that she was not being open about her connections to the Chinese state and may have ulterior motives for her involvement with parliamentarians.

While it is not the first time such an alert has been issued, official warnings of this nature are relatively rare.

The letter from the Speaker accompanying the alert said: ‘I am writing now to draw your attention to the attached 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.

‘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.’

In the covering letter, Sir Lindsay said the MPs she contacted included members of the now disbanded Chinese in Britain All Party Parliamentary Group. Chaired by Mr Gardiner, other members included Labour’s Keith Vaz, Stephen Pound, Faisal Rashid and Gareth Thomas, along with Tory David Morris.

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