CHINESE agents are feared to be using sex and cash to woo Western officials as a suspected Communist agent was found at the heart of Westminster.
MI5 has raised the alarm as Chinese national Christine Lee was accused of trying to influence Labour MP Barry Gardiner, as well as a host of others.
Lee is accused of “facilitating financial donations to serving and aspiring politicians” – having forked over £675,586.88 to either Mr Gardiner’s office or the Labour Party.
MI5 spooks warned she had been “engaged in political interference activities on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party, engaging with Members here at Parliament and associated political entities”.
And it comes as the threat of Chinese influence operations and espionage is growing in the West amid long-running tensions with Beijing.
Professor Anthony Glees, from the Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies at the University of Buckingham, warned Beijing uses cash and sex to lure in unwitting officials in the West.
He warned the revelations about Lee are a “big wake up call” for the UK.
Chinese agents want two things “information and influence”, the prof said, and they will use everything from offers of money, to lavish trips to China or even sexual “honey traps” to get what they want from their prey.
He told The Sun Online: “What the Chinese want are two things: first, information, secret if possible, but any information to which those in privileged positions might have access denied to ordinary folk.”
Prof Glees went on: “Second, they want influence. They know we are now far more anxious about President Xi and his ambitions which are indeed very worrying.
“So people who might speak up for Xi and China are hotly desired.”
It has long been feared that Chinese agents have been operating to try spread Communist ideals and to steal secrets from Britain.
And it not just politicians who could be at risk, but businessmen, academics, political aides, staffers and interns may also be targets for the Chinese.
MPs have warned of the threat from China following the revelations about Lee.
Tom Tugendhat MP, chair of the foreign affairs select committee, tweeted: “Our security services are rightly focussed on state threats the UK.
“It is clear that the challenge from Beijing is increasing and we need to defend our democracy against hostile activity.”
Tobias Ellwood MP, chair of the defence select committee, said: “This is the sort of grey zone interference we have come to expect from China.”
And meanwhile former Tory leader Ian Duncan Smith described it as a matter of “grave concern” and warned security in parliament is “too lax”.
UK spooks have previously issued official warnings of the danger posed by China’s so-called “honey traps”.
You don’t get permission to work in the West unless your loyalty to the Communist regime is beyond question
Professor Anthony Glees
Like something from a spy thriller, the honey trap agents are believed to often be attractive women who have attended top universities and speak perfect English.
It is believed they often use social media – such as LinkedIn and Facebook – to connect with their prey as they lure them in.
They will then bed the target, and use their influence over them to try and extort valuable information for the Communist Party.
Known as Fang Fang, the suspected Chinese spy reportedly had sex with two mayors and targeted politicians to infiltrate US political circles.
Fang targeted aspiring politicians from 2011 to 2015, with a reported focus on Swalwell.
Theresa May’s aides were told be aware of about “Chinese spies offering sex” during a visit to the G20 in Hangzhou back 2016.
And in 2008, MI5 issued a warning that China may use “sexual relationships” to “pressurise individuals to cooperate with them”.
France also raised the alarm about Chinese agents in 2011, saying the Communist Party uses “beautiful female spies” to steal secrets.
And meanwhile, Boris Johnson’s former No.2 when he was London Mayor, Ian Clement, revealed in 2009 he believes he had sex with a Chinese spy.
He suspected he was lured into a honey trap while in Beijing, taking a woman up to his hotel room during the 2008 Olympics.
Clement, who had been briefed by MI6 on the danger, was then drugged and found the room had been ransacked.
The woman had rifled the Tory’s through confidential documents and downloaded details about how the capital is run from his BlackBerry smartphone.
And meanwhile, back in China in 2012 it emerged an 18-year-old woman, Zhao Hongxia, was used to bring down a Communist Party official by filming a sex tape with him to extort him.
She was reportedly employed by a criminal gang – but her sting ended up with Chinese anti-corruption officials bringing down the party boss.
Professor Glees warned that the UK must redouble its efforts to weed out potential agents coming to work in the UK.
He said: “You don’t get permission to work in the West unless your loyalty to the Communist regime is beyond question.”
And he called for a ban on foreign donations to MPs and Peers – much like the UK has for political parties.
Previously, Sam Armstrong, from Henry Jackson Society, told The Sun Online it would “defy credulity” to think China is not using its spy-craft arsenal in the UK.
He said: “We rarely find out when an intelligence operation takes place, the mark of a successful one is you don’t know about it.”
It is understood that as well as Labour MP Mr Gardiner, Ms Lee is also suspected of targeting politicians from all mainstream parties.
Donations began in September 2015, soon after Brent North MP’s Mr Gardiner became shadow minister for energy.
They included £182,284 that pays the wages of two of Mr Gardiner’s Westminster aides — one of whom is Christine Lee’s son, Daniel Wilkes.
In a statement Mr Gardiner said Ms Lee’s son resigned “earlier today” and had no knowledge of his mother’s activities, according to the security services.
Ms Lee has previously rubbed shoulders with Mr Corbyn, PM David Cameron and even received a Points of Light Award from Theresa May.
Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey received a £5,000 donation from Ms Lee in 2013 when he was Energy Secretary in the coalition.
No MP’s are suspected of any criminality at this stage and the focus of the MI5 investigation is on Chinese authorities and their attempts to damage Britain.
Ms Lee has not been arrested but remains under investigation by security services.
She is believed to still be in the UK and runs a law firm with offices in London and Beijing.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “I know it will be deeply concerning to many that an individual who has knowingly engaged in political interference activities on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party has targeted parliamentarians.
“Forthcoming measures to counter these kind of threats will build on the robust safeguards already in place, making our country even harder for states to conduct hostile activity in.”