UPDATES WITH MORE INFO, HOME SECRETARY'S STATEMENT
LONDON (AA) - British parliamentarians have been warned about a female Chinese national who has allegedly been seeking to influence them, local media reported on Thursday.
The warning from British intelligence services has been circulated to MPs via a letter from parliament speaker Lindsay Hoyle.
Tory MP Iain Duncan Smith told the House of Commons Hoyle has been contacted by MI5 over the matter.
The alert from MI5 said a woman, named Christine Lee, has been "engaged in political interference activities on behalf of the Chinese Community Party, engaging with members here at parliament."
"Lee has acted covertly in coordination with the United Front Work Department of the Chinese Communist Party (UFWD) and is judged to be involved in political interference activities in the UK," it said.
“I understand that Mr. Speaker has been contacted by MI5 and is now warning members of parliament that there has been an agent of the Chinese government active here in parliament working with a Member of Parliament, obviously to subvert the processes here,” Smith said.
“I say, as a Member of Parliament who has been sanctioned by the Chinese government, that this is a matter of grave concern,” he added.
Lee was given a praise by former Prime Minister Theresa May for "promoting engagement, understanding and cooperation between the Chinese community and wider UK society."
The head of MI6, Richard Moore, last year referred to China “as single greatest priority” for the first time in its history.
In 2020, the UK expelled three Chinese nationals, claiming they were spies posing as journalists. The MI5 said they worked for the Chinese minister of state security, a claim China rejected.
- 'Deep concern'
Home Secretary Priti Patel said she knows people will be "deeply concerned" about a Chinese agent targeting MPs on Thursday. She said the woman was identified thanks to the "strong structures the United Kingdom has in place to identify foreign interference or any potential threats to our democracy".
"Proportionate action is always taken to mitigate these threats, thanks to our world-leading intelligence and security agencies," she added.
Last year, China had imposed sanctions on 10 UK organizations and MPs Smith, Nus Ghani, Neil O’Brien, and Tim Loughton over the alleged spreading of “lies and disinformation” on alleged human rights violations of Uygur Muslims in Xinjiang province.
In return, Hoyle had barred the Chinese ambassador’s access to the parliament.