An interference warning is being circulated to MPs and peers claiming that a female Chinese national has been seeking to improperly influence parliamentarians.
The alert – produced by MI5 – names an individual “knowingly engaged in political interference activities on behalf of the United Front Work Department of the Chinese Communist party”.
It was shared in an email from the Speaker’s office to MPs. The authorities warn that the individual has “facilitated financial donations to serving and aspiring parliamentarians on behalf of foreign nationals based in Hong Kong and China”.
Moments after being sent, the unexpected warning was urgently discussed in the Commons chamber, with MPs Iain Duncan Smith and Tobias Ellwood demanding urgent updates from the government.
“The key issue here is I understand that Mr Speaker has been contacted by MI5 and is now warning members of parliament that there has been an agent of the Chinese government active here in parliament,” Duncan Smith said.
It is understood that politicians across the political spectrum may have been targeted in an exercise that has been monitored by MI5 for some time. “This has not been about targeting the government in particular,” a source added.
The suspicion is that the person concerned, who is thought to be based in the UK, is connected to the Chinese state – but the individual concerned is not being expelled or prosecuted. The person does not work at the Chinese embassy, it is understood.
Concerns about Chinese espionage have been growing among Britain’s intelligence community. Late last year Richard Moore, the head of MI6, said that China had become the foreign intelligence agency’s “single greatest priority” for the first time in its history.
In 2020, Britain quietly expelled three alleged Chinese spies last year who it said were posing as journalists. The intelligence agency MI5 concluded the three worked for China’s powerful Ministry of State Security (MSS), although claims of espionage are typically rejected by Beijing.