The suggestion this weekend that an alleged Chinese spy is a British-born parliamentary researcher – leading a policy group aimed at countering the growing threat from Beijing – has sent shockwaves through Westminster and beyond. The individual denies the accusations and says he is ‘completely innocent’ but MPs who know him and many of us who interacted with him are obviously concerned.
The investigation into the alleged spy is still ongoing, but regardless of the police’s findings Xi Jinping’s regime has long been running a campaign to influence, infiltrate and intimidate people abroad, with the aim of silencing critics and subverting democracy. These concerns have gained particular prominence in the UK. Last year, MI5 sounded the alarm about the apparent threat from Beijing’s agents in Westminster – when it alleged that a UK-based lawyer Christine Lee was involved in ‘political interference activities’ (Lee strongly denies wrongdoing and is suing the MI5 over the allegations.) Earlier this summer parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee warned that China has penetrated ‘every sector’ of the UK economy in a ‘whole of state’ assault, and that the UK’s response is ‘completely inadequate’.
I myself have been no stranger to Beijing’s bullying and intimidation tactics. Ever since I was denied entry to Hong Kong in 2017 and co-founded Hong Kong Watch later that year, I have received dozens of anonymous, threatening letters sent to my home. Some of my neighbours have also been contacted, urging them to monitor my movements. My mother, who lives in a different part of the country, has received letters asking her to tell her son to ‘shut up’.
I believe I was removed from the Conservative party candidates list on the direct interference of the Chinese embassy in London in 2017. I had been on the approved parliamentary candidates list for many years, stood as a candidate in Durham in 2005, and had been invited to reapply for the list after the general election in 2017.