How MI5 uncovered a Chinese ‘agent’ in parliament

Last week Britain’s security services issued an extraordinary warning to parliament naming Christine Lee, a well-known lawyer in London’s Chinese community, as an agent working covertly for the Chinese government.

It is the first time MI5 has issued an “interference alert” relating to China and it cast a spotlight on the Labour MP Barry Gardiner, whose office received £584,177 worth of donations from Lee.

Gardiner said he had been “liaising with our security services for a number of years about Christine Lee”. He added: “All the donations were properly reported in the register of members’ interests and their source verified at the time.”

As the Guardian’s defence and security editor, Dan Sabbagh, tells Michael Safi, the affair highlights some of the murkier aspects of who has access to politicians and on what terms. It also shows a shift in approach from the security services who are much more aggressively calling out China: MI6 recently identified it as the service’s top priority, overtaking the threat of Islamist terrorism.

The Guardian has attempted to contact Christine Lee. She has not responded to questions about MI5’s statements sent to her law firm from the Guardian.

The offices of Christine Lee solicitors in Soho London. (Photograph: Amer Ghazzal/Rex/Shutterstock)

Photograph: Amer Ghazzal/REX/Shutterstock

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