Monday 17 January 2022
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MI5 names Chinese ‘mole’ linked to Labour MP whom India awarded Padma Shri

British intelligence agency MI5 has named Labour MP Barry Gardiner, who was awarded a Padma Shri in January 2020, as a parliamentarian who had received funds from an alleged Chinese spy trying to subvert democratic processes in the parliament of the UK. Christine Ching Kui Lee has been a long-time funder of Gardiner’s office through her law firm Christine Lee & Co, which has offices in and Birmingham and which also acts as chief legal adviser to the Chinese embassy in London.

Gardiner has also been employing Lee’s son, Daniel Wilkes, in his Westminster office, but Wilkes resigned yesterday.

Gardiner represents Brent North, an area with a large Indian diaspora. He has been quite popular with the NRIs in Britain. In January 2020, he had been awarded the Padma Shri.

Britain’s security service MI5 issued a bombshell warning to yeaterday, saying that Chinese national Christine Ching Kui Lee was “knowingly engaged in political interference activities on behalf of the United Front Work Department of the Chinese Communist Party. Lee has acted covertly in coordination with the UFWD and is judged to be involved in political interference activities in the UK”.

MI5 warned that the UFWD was seeking to covertly interfere in UK politics through “establishing links with established and aspiring parliamentarians across the political spectrum” in order to ensure that the UK political landscape was “favourable to the CCP’s agenda”. The mail said that Lee had been involved in the “facilitation of financial donations” to political parties, parliamentarians and aspiring parliamentarians and individuals seeking political office in the UK.

The news has sent shockwaves through the Indian community in Britain. There is no evidence Gardiner knew she was a spy, they say.

Gardiner said in a statement: “I have been liaising with our security services for a number of years about Christine Lee and they have always known, and been made fully aware by me, of her engagement with my office and the donations she made to fund researchers in my office in the past. I have been assured by the security services that whilst they have definitively identified improper funding channelled through Christine Lee, this does not relate to any funding received by my office. Christine Lee’s son volunteered in my office many years ago and was subsequently employed by me as a diary manager. He resigned from my employment earlier today.”

Community Harendra Jodha said: “These are lawmakers. Their staff should be vetted properly as this is a matter of national security. Barry Gardiner should now come out and all the facts. It is alarming as he was awarded the Padma Shri. We need to know whether he was involved with policy-making with regard to India.”

Another source in the Indian community who knows Gardiner said, “When he was shadow secretary of for international trade he used to travel to China often. That may be where he picked up these contacts. He has not even gone to India to accept his Padma Shri despite having received letters requesting him to accept it. The Indian government gave him the Padma Shri for his work with the Indian community and the Gujarati community. So far he has declined to go to Delhi to accept it citing Covid. The Indian government would not have known about this. If this is really true, that he had a Chinese agent working for him, this will have a detrimental impact on his relationship with the Indian community. There is a tense border situation in India with China. If a British MP with an Indian majority constituency is close to the Chinese government, that is not welcome at all.”

In the House of Commons on 13 January Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative Party leader, said he had received an email from the Speaker informing him that “an agent of the Chinese government has been active here in Parliament — working with a member of Parliament — obviously to subvert the processes here”.

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