China says UK spy claims result of watching 'too many 007 movies'
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Beijing (AFP) – China on Friday dismissed a rare public warning by British security services that a suspected Chinese agent was trying to influence lawmakers, saying it was the result of watching "too many 007 movies".
British authorities said Thursday that a London-based solicitor "knowingly engaged in political interference activities" inside parliament, citing Britain's counter-intelligence and domestic spy agency MI5.
Christine Lee had reportedly worked on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party to gain influence through donations, the office of House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle said.
China's foreign ministry denied engaging in "interference activities", blasting the accusations as "alarmist remarks based on some individuals' subjective assumptions".
"Perhaps some individuals have watched too many 007 movies, leading to unnecessary mental associations," foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a regular press conference, referring to the James Bond book and movie franchise.
MI5's security notice said Lee was acting "on behalf of the United Front Work Department of the Chinese Communist Party" and answered to figures in China and Hong Kong.
Academics and multiple foreign governments have long recognised the United Front as a tool for influencing organisations and politicians abroad.
The opaque party-controlled network covers issues such as minority rights within China to monitoring Chinese communities overseas.
Lee had previously been celebrated as a link between China and Britain and it was unclear what evidence sparked MI5's public warning -- a highly unusual move from the intelligence services.
Former prime minister Theresa May -- whose Conservative Party has been accused of benefiting from millions in Russian money -- presented Lee with an award in 2019 to recognise her contribution to Sino-British ties.
She was also photographed with May's predecessor David Cameron at an event in 2015, and separately with former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
The Times of London said Lee was a VIP guest when President Xi Jinping visited Britain in 2019 and sat behind the Chinese leader in a posed group photograph.
Governments and politicians in other Western countries, including Australia and New Zealand, have accused China of attempting to influence domestic politics through donations and espionage.
London's latest accusations come a week after a rare online exchange between Chinese state news agency Xinhua and the head of Britain's MI6 in response to a spoof by Xinhua of James Bond that mocked the Western intelligence community's focus on Beijing.
MI6 head Richard Moore reacted to Xinhua's video on Twitter, thanking the news agency for "free publicity" and attaching a link to his November speech in which he warned of China's attempts to "distort public discourse" globally.
© 2022 AFP