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British spy agency MI5 may have issued China alert to divert attention from Partygate, court hears

British spy agency MI5 may have issued China alert to divert attention from Partygate, court hears
British spy agency MI5 may have issued China alert to divert attention from Partygate, court hears

 



London
CNN

A former opposition MP in the British House of Commons has claimed that Britain's domestic spy agency MI5 could have issued a rare warning notice in 2022 over a suspected Chinese agent to divert attention from the so-called Partygate scandal, according to testimony before a court looking into the alert.

In the alert issued in January 2022, MI5 alleged that Christine Ching Kui Lee had acted covertly in coordination on behalf of China's ruling Communist Party and was found to be involved in political interference activities in the UK.

The alert was issued a day after former Prime Minister Boris Johnson apologized in the House of Commons over the Partygate scandal. Johnson's premiership collapsed in 2022 after it emerged that numerous social gatherings had taken place under his watch, some of which he personally attended at a time when Britons were living under strict rules in due to Covid-19.

London's Investigatory Powers Tribunal heard on Monday that Barry Gardiner, a former opposition Labor Party lawmaker to whom Lee donated more than $US500,000 (over $600,000) between 2014 and 2020, said in a text he had heard said the MI5 alert had been issued to distract from the Johnsons Partygate scandal, the PA news agency reported.

In a text forwarded to Lee by a friend, Gardiner said many people told him they thought the reason they published the story was to distract from Boris's Partygate apology, according to the report. the Palestinian Authority. Gardiner did not specify exactly who these people were who made this suggestion. Nor was any evidence provided in court Monday to support the allegations. The hearing will continue on Tuesday.

The office of Christine Lee & Solicitors, Wardour Street, London, January 13, 2022.

CNN reached out to Gardiners' office but did not receive an immediate response.

I never believed that the security services would be openly partisan in this way [] What was also suggested to me was that the security services might have wanted to start a fight or distract attention from something else and that we were just collateral damage, read part of 'a text by Gardiner that Lees' lawyer read at the hearing. , according to PA.

CNN has also contacted the UK Home Office and Boris Johnson's office for comment.

The MI5 alert in question also alleged that Lee had facilitated financial donations to political parties, parliamentarians, aspiring parliamentarians and individuals seeking political office in the UK, including by facilitating donations to political entities on behalf of foreign nationals.

Ms Lee denies the allegations and is taking legal action against the security service with her son, Daniel Wilkes, who lost his job with Mr Gardiner following the alert, arguing that issuing the alert was illegal and violated their human rights, PA reported.

Gardiner served as a Labor MP between 1997 and 2024. He was chairman of the now-disbanded Chinese All-Party Parliamentary Group in Britain, on which Lee sat.

It was not illegal for Lee to make donations because the UK did not have a foreign agent registration law at the time, nor was it illegal for a British citizen or a foreign national working in the United Kingdom from being affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party. Lee is registered as a British national on the UK Companies Register. The UK has since introduced a Foreign Agents Registration Act, which is expected to come into force later this year.

In a statement to CNN in 2022, Gardiner said he had not personally benefited in any way from Lee's donations, adding that the money had been properly declared and its source verified.

CNN's Andrew Raine contributed to this report.

Sources

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