ChinaJuly 26 2022, 15:29 pm

MI5’s Public Naming of UK Lawyer as ‘Chinese Influence Agent’ Marks Shift in Approach Against China, Report Says

UK media is report­ing that MI5’s pub­lic nam­ing of a UK lawyer as a “Chi­nese influ­ence agent” marks a shift in the approach being tak­en against the secu­ri­ty threat posed by Chi­na, which accord­ing to the secu­ri­ty agency, is “try­ing to progress a new gen­er­a­tion of polit­i­cal can­di­dates.”. Accord­ing to a BBC report:

July 19, 2022 British secu­ri­ty ser­vices issued an alert ear­li­er this year stat­ing that a UK-based lawyer had been engaged in “polit­i­cal inter­fer­ence activ­i­ties” for the Chi­nese state. MI5’s pub­lic nam­ing of Chris­tine Lee, and a recent unprece­dent­ed news con­fer­ence with the FBI, mark a shift in the approach being tak­en against the secu­ri­ty threat posed by Chi­na. […] MI5 had grad­u­al­ly received new infor­ma­tion sug­gest­ing mon­ey was flow­ing into the UK polit­i­cal sys­tem with its true ori­gins in Chi­na hid­den. Specif­i­cal­ly, they believed it was linked to the Unit­ed Front Works Depart­ment (UFWD). The UFWD has been referred to by the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Par­ty as a “mag­ic weapon” — not a secret intel­li­gence agency so much as an influ­ence agency. It is one of the organ­i­sa­tions that the head of MI5, Ken McCal­lum, named in his 6 July speech as “mount­ing patient, well-fund­ed, decep­tive cam­paigns to buy and exert influence”.

Read the rest here.

The report says that mul­ti­ple offi­cials say Chris­tine Lee was involved in a “seed­ing oper­a­tion,” which would reflect the way the Chi­nese state oper­ates – “a will­ing­ness to wait years for efforts to pay off.” The report describes Lee as follows:

Chris­tine Lee arrived from Chi­na in 1974 aged 11. She says she expe­ri­enced ver­bal bul­ly­ing at her school in Belfast as the only Chi­nese per­son in her class.  She found­ed her own law firm in 1990 and, from a cramped office in north Lon­don, spe­cialised in immi­gra­tion issues includ­ing asy­lum claims and work visas linked to Chi­na. This brought her into con­tact with the Chi­nese Embassy, lead­ing to her becom­ing its legal advis­er in 2008. She lat­er became a legal advis­er to the Over­seas Chi­nese Affairs Office in Bei­jing which in 2018 became part of the Unit­ed Front Works Depart­ment. She served on oth­er groups pro­mot­ing con­tacts between Chi­na and over­seas Chi­nese communities.

The MI5 secu­ri­ty alert and the BBC report iden­ti­fy the fol­low­ing groups Lee alleged­ly used to influ­ence the UK parliament:

  • The British-Chi­nese Project which held events and orga­nized trips to Chi­na, sup­port­ing can­di­dates for office with Chi­nese backgrounds

The Unit­ed Front Work Depart­ment is a lit­tle-known Bei­jing-based agency. It has branch­es world­wide that seek to imple­ment the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party’s (CCP) plans to set up and con­nect a large net­work of asso­ci­a­tions, busi­ness groups, friend­ship soci­eties, or cul­tur­al groups sup­port­ive of the CCP and to ensure that its over­seas cit­i­zens, and oth­ers of eth­nic Chi­nese descent, stay loy­al. Accord­ing to a US gov­ern­ment report, Unit­ed Front work pro­motes Beijing’s pre­ferred glob­al nar­ra­tive, pres­sures indi­vid­u­als liv­ing in free and open soci­eties to self-cen­sor and avoid dis­cussing issues unfa­vor­able to the CCP, and harass­es or under­mines groups crit­i­cal of Beijing’s policies.

The Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report (GIOR) has exten­sive­ly cov­ered Chi­nese influ­ence oper­a­tions in the UK, includ­ing attempts to influ­ence polit­i­cal elites in the coun­try. In August, we pub­lished an exclu­sive inves­ti­ga­tion uncov­er­ing China’s attempts to cre­ate pro-Chi­na lob­by groups in Europe, iden­ti­fy­ing China’s main vehi­cle for elite cap­ture in the UK:

August 29, 2021 China’s main vehi­cle for elite cap­ture in the UK is the 48 Group Club, a busi­ness net­work “pro­mot­ing pos­i­tive Sino-British rela­tions” found­ed in the 1950s that today gath­ers the who’s who of the British pow­er elite — includ­ing for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Tony Blair, mem­bers of the House of Lords and senior media and busi­ness exec­u­tives — and pairs them with senior Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Par­ty oper­a­tives, includ­ing sev­er­al for­mer Chi­nese ambas­sadors, a for­mer vice pres­i­dent, and a for­mer vice-min­is­ter. The group’s web­site pub­lish­es arti­cles from Chi­nese state-led media out­lets such as Xin­hua and Chi­na Dai­ly Glob­al, and its mem­bers open­ly advo­cate for Chi­nese pol­i­cy objectives.

Read the full inves­ti­ga­tion here.



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