Chinese ‘spy’ at heart of Westminster: How ‘lawyer’ targeted an ex-energy secretary and shadow secretary during at least five years of manoeuvring in UK’s corridors of power
Christine Lee’s penetration into the heart of the British political establishment has been breathtakingly successful.
The Chinese lawyer consorted in plain sight with Prime Ministers, peers and senior MPs, pumping hundreds of thousands of pounds into both Labour and Tory coffers as, according to MI5, she sought to extend Beijing’s influence.
Her law firm, with offices in London, Birmingham and China and Hong Kong, bankrolled former Labour front-bencher and Corbyn ally Barry Gardiner MP’s office, to the tune of over £500,000 over five years and her son Daniel Wilkes worked in the same office as his diary secretary with his own Parliamentary pass for several years – at least, until his sudden resignation today.
A long line of politicians from all sides of the House have also been happy to be associated with Ms Lee until MI5’s damning assessment of her ‘interference’ – covertly seeking to gain influence – was issued in a bombshell alert.
She has 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 Secretary in the coalition government.
So popular was she in Westminster that just two years ago Lee received glowing praise from Theresa May as she was given a Points of Light award for making a difference in her community.
Christine Lee’s political influence in both Britain and China is clear when you consider that Lee, a twice-married mother-of-two has been pictured with both David Cameron (pictured together at the British GG2 leadership awards in 2015) and China President Xi Jinpin
Her law firm, with offices in London, Birmingham and China and Hong Kong, bankrolled former Labour front-bencher and Corbyn ally Barry Gardiner MP’s office, to the tune of over £500,000 over five years. Pictured: Lee with Gardiner outside the Houses of Parliament in 2013
Mrs May told her in a statement issued by Downing Street: ‘You should feel very proud of the difference that “The British Chinese Project” is making in promoting engagement, understanding, and cooperation between the Chinese and British communities in the UK.
‘I also wish you well with your work to further the inclusion and participation of British-Chinese people in the UK political system.’
Her political influence in both Britain and China is clear when you consider that Lee, a twice-married mother-of-two has been pictured with both David Cameron and China President Xi Jinpin.
And her company was described by China Daily as ‘the only Chinese-owned British law firm approved by the Chinese government to set up offices in China’.
Lee’s influence at Westminster and her friendship with Gardiner dates back to 2004 when she founded the British Chinese Poroject which claimed to be a ‘non-partisan, voluntary organisation seeking to raise the presence of the Chinese community in the British political arena.’ The group was once chaired by Gardiner.
She ran the group alongside her other son, Michael Wilkes. Research revealed that both Lee and Wilkes had previously congratulated Tory MP Alan Mak for his electoral victory in 2015 and the BCP referred to ‘our Chinese candidates’.
Ms Lee, a London-based solicitor and a former chief legal adviser to the Chinese embassy in London, speaking to former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in 2016. She is also the secretary of the Inter-Party China Group at Westminster.
A warning memo was sent to all MPs and Peers in Westminster today by the Speaker’s Parliamentary security team, and no politicians are suspected of any criminality.
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
Mr Gardiner also formed in 2011 an all-party group to represent Chinese citizens in Britain, which has since disbanded.
Such was his closeness to Lee that Mr Gardiner chose to keep on her David two years ago when the Daily Mail published a ground-breaking book about so-called ‘Tiger Women’ such as Ms Lee, who were accused of promoting Beijing’s interests in Britain.
One of those interests was undoubtedly energy, and Mr Gardiner is a former shadow energy secretary. And the now Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey MP, was energy secretary during the coalition government when he also received a donation of £5,000 to his office, and the same amount to his party in 2013.
Mr Gardiner has been supportive of China’s attempts to get more involved in Britain’s nuclear industry, including the Hinkley Point power plant.
Christine Lee pictured with Keith Vaz at Chinese for Labour event in 2016
Christine Lee pictured with Tom Watson at Chinese for Labour event in 2016
In 2017 The Times reported that Mr Gardiner, a minister in Tony Blair’s government, had ‘generally taken a pro-Beijing stance’. It said that in his former role as shadow energy secretary, he supported Chinese involvement in the UK nuclear power industry.
Asked in the past about his financial support from Miss Lee’s firm, Mr Gardiner reportedly said he had never been ‘improperly requested by, or influenced by’ the law firm ‘in relation to his conduct as an MP or Labour spokesman’. There is no suggestion of impropriety.
A book, called Hidden Hand by Professor Clive Hamilton and Mareike Ohlberg, referred to those politicians being courted by Ms Lee and others like her, as ‘useful idiots’.
Mr Gardiner secretary said yesterday that he had been in touch with MI5 for a number of years about Ms Lee and his engagement with her firm and the political donations. What he didn’t say was what the spy chiefs’ view of the arrangment had been.
Today’s MI5 warning made that all too clear.
Christine Lee has 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 Secretary in the coalition government
Christine Lee and Co’s Twitter account, which carries the line ‘serving the Chinese community for 20 years’, is used to trumpet accolades showered on its boss from Beijing.
In 2017, they tweeted: ‘Congratulations! Madam Christine Lee has been appointed to Beijing City Overseas Chinese Legal Advisor.’
In 2006 Lee founded the British Chinese Project (BCP), whose stated aim is to ’empower the UK Chinese community, making them aware of their democratic rights and responsibilities, whilst ensuring the needs and interests of the community are heard at a political level’.
It sounded a very worthy multicultural enterprise But its Chinese name has different echoes. It translates as ‘British Chinese Participation in Politics’, linking it to the huaren canzheng infiltration policy of the CCP to maximise political influence in democracies by promoting trusted people of Chinese heritage.
Lee was married in Birmingham in 1985 to a man called John Shing, then wed to British solicitor Martin Wilkes in Solihull, West Midlands in 1990.
Their elder son Michael, 30, – now also a solicitor – was born in 1991 and his brother Daniel, 27, in 1994 and the family lived in the leafy Birmingham suburb of Coleshill. Both sons were born in Birmingham.
Martin Wilkes is listed, along with Ms Lee, as a director of Christine Lee & Co (Solicitors) Ltd. Other solicitor directors named in Companies House documents are David Tat Wai Ho and Jennifer Ho.
Political website Guido Fawkes yesterday reported that Lee ran BCP alongside her son Michael and in 2015 the pair congratulated Tory MP Alan Mak for his victory in the General Election, referring to ‘our Chinese candidates’.
Mr Mak – now a government whip – told Guido he had ‘never met [and] never spoke with [Lee]’, adding the BCP were a ‘bad bunch’ who he’d ‘always stayed away from’.