Barry Gardiner at centre of MI5 warning over Chinese interference

Brent North MP, Barry Gardiner, talked to a lot of upset students and teachers prior to the A-level

Brent North MP Barry Gardiner - Credit: Archant

Barry Gardiner is at the centre of allegations of “political interference activities” from the Chinese government. 

MI5 made a public warning last night (Thursday, January 13) after it emerged the Brent North MP received more than £500,000 in donations from a woman believed to be a Chinese agent.

Mr Gardiner was said to have received funds from Christine Ching Kui Lee – mainly to cover staffing costs in his office – over a period of six years, and employed her son as his diary manager.

In an interview with Sky, Mr Gardiner said he did not discuss policy “in great detail” with Ms Lee during his time as a Labour frontbencher under Tony Blair or as a shadow cabinet minister.

“I think she must have thought it was a very poor investment if she did seek to get something out of it,” Mr Gardiner said. 

“I have been critical of the Chinese government on many occasions. 

“If they were looking for someone who was compliant, they would not have found it in me.”

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The disclosures came after MI5 took the rare step of issuing MPs and peers with a warning about Ms Lee’s cultivating of British politicians to secure a “UK political landscape” that was “favourable” to China.

A spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in London denied the claims.

“China always adheres to the principle of non-interference in other country’s internal affairs,” they said.

“We have no need and never seek to ‘buy influence’ in any foreign parliament. We firmly oppose the trick of smearing and intimidation against the Chinese community in the UK.”

It is understood that officials raised the security alert on Ms Lee with the Chinese ambassador on Thursday.

The Home Secretary has said it is likely there will be more national security alerts like that issued over Ms Lee.

In the Security Service Interference Alert (SSIA) sent to MPs and peers, MI5 said Ms Lee “acted covertly” in coordination with the United Front Work Department (UFWD) of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

“The UFWD seeks to cultivate relationships with influential figures in order to ensure the UK political landscape is favourable to the CCP’s agenda and to challenge those that raise concerns about CCP activity, such as human rights,” it said.

Additional reporting by PA.