MI5 has issued a rare warning that an alleged Chinese agent has infiltrated Parliament to interfere in UK politics.
An alert from the security service said Christine Ching Kui Lee “established links” for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) with current and aspiring MPs.
She then gave donations to politicians, with funding coming from foreign nationals in China and Hong Kong.
It comes after a “significant, long-running” investigation by MI5, Whitehall sources told the BBC.
One of the MPs funded by Ms Lee was Labour’s Barry Gardiner, who received over £420,000 from her in five years – but he said he had always made the security services aware of the donations.
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey also received a £5,000 donation when he was energy secretary – but he said the money was accepted by his local association and it was “the first time he has been given cause to be concerned”.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said it was “deeply concerning” that someone “who has knowingly engaged in political interference activities on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party has targeted parliamentarians”.
But she said the UK has measures in place “to identify foreign interference”.
The security service said anyone contacted by Ms Lee should be “mindful of her affiliation” and its “remit to advance the CCP’s agenda”.
Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “We condemn in the strongest terms the attempts by China to interfere in Britain’s democratic processes.”
She said Labour was seeking further information from the Home Office and MI5 on the “extent of the deception and interference and the ongoing risks of malign activity from foreign states”.
All MPs and peers must be given an update from MI5 on security risks and how to guard against interference, she added.
Issuing an alert about an individual is an unusual move for MI5.
It signals that their long-running investigation had led them to become sufficiently concerned that they felt they had to act now.
We have heard about concerns over Russian influence in the past but China, British intelligence officials say, has now become their top priority.
The allegation here is interference – covertly gaining influence – and not espionage (stealing secrets).
And one concern from security officials is that there are not the laws in place to be able to tackle interference.
As a result, they sometimes believe that going public – as they have done in this case – is the best way of disrupting any ongoing risk.