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British MPs told to steer clear of alleged Beijing agent

Political donations and accusations of influence-peddling are at the centre of a scandal that has seen MI5 warn British MPs that a London-based lawyer with ties to Beijing is exerting “covert” influence on British politics.

Beijing has dismissed the claim as “irresponsible”, with Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin scoffing at British intelligence for being “too obsessed with James Bond 007 movies and made some unnecessary associations”.

China has “no need to and will never engage in the so-called interference”, Mr Wang said.

House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle on Thursday sent legislators an alert from MI5 alleging that the lawyer, Christine Lee, was acting in coordination with the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department, an organisation dedicated to exerting Chinese influence abroad.

MI5 said Lee had “facilitated” donations to British political parties and legislators “on behalf of foreign nationals”.

Members of Parliament are required to declare the source of donations they receive, which must be from UK-registered electors or entities.

Lee’s firm, Christine Lee & Co, states on its website that it has “developed strong affiliations between the UK and China” and has advised the Chinese Embassy in London on legal matters. It has offices in the UK and China and practises immigration, corporate and commercial law, according to the website.

Lee is not accused of a criminal offence. Her office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Rising tensions

Tensions between Britain and China have risen over accusations of economic subterfuge, human rights abuses and Beijing’s crackdown on civil liberties in the former British colony of Hong Kong.

In November the head of the MI6 overseas intelligence agency, Richard Moore, called China one of the biggest threats to Britain and its allies.

China has repeatedly criticised what it calls British interference in its internal affairs and denied meddling in the politics of foreign nations.

Speaking at a daily briefing, Wang said China hoped the “relevant British official will refrain from making groundless allegations and hyping the China threat to serve (the government’s) ulterior motives”.

“It is highly irresponsible to make sensational remarks based on hearsay evidence and certain individual’s conjecture,” Wang said.

House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle on Thursday sent legislators an alert from MI5 alleging that the lawyer, Christine Lee, was acting in coordination with the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department, an organisation dedicated to exerting Chinese influence abroad.

MI5 said Lee had “facilitated” donations to British political parties and legislators “on behalf of foreign nationals”.

Members of Parliament are required to declare the source of donations they receive, which must be from UK-registered electors or entities.

Lee is not accused of a criminal offence. Her firm, Christine Lee & Co, states on its website that it has “developed strong affiliations between the UK and China” and has advised the Chinese Embassy in London on legal matters. It has offices in the UK and China and practises immigration, corporate and commercial law, according to the website.

Lee’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In November, the head of the MI6 overseas intelligence agency, Richard Moore, called China one of the biggest threats to Britain and its allies.

China has repeatedly criticised what it calls “British interference” in its internal affairs.

-AAP



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