China sent a ‘spy’ to infiltrate a House of Commons briefing by Hong Kong dissidents, campaigners believe.
A man claiming to be a tourist tried to enter the invitation-only talk in a committee room deep within the high-security Houses of Parliament.
The meeting was addressed by Finn Lau and Christopher Mung, who last week had £100,000 arrest bounties put on their heads by Beijing-controlled Hong Kong police.
When confronted, the alleged spy gave a name not on the approved list and refused to say who he was representing.
He claimed he had been directed to the secluded committee room as part of an official tour. He left after a brief stand-off.
Hong Kong activists, Christopher Mung (left) and Finn Lau (right) sit either side of Conservative MP and Foreign Affairs Committee member Bob Seely who chaired the event, a private parliamentary briefing about Hong Kong on the top floor of the House of Commons
Finn Lau (left) and Christopher Mung, walk through College Green, London. Mr Lau and Mr Mung, who now live in the UK after fleeing Hong Kong, are among the eight activists who have had HK$1 million bounties for their arrests placed on them by the Hong Kong government
About 200 MPs, peers, journalists and democracy campaigners were invited to attend the private briefing on Hong Kong hosted by Tory MP Bob Seely on July 5.
It was held in committee room 19, located on the top floor, far from the areas usually visited by tourists. Some Hong Kongers covered their faces during the event, fearing for their safety.
Mr Seely, who is a member of the Commons foreign affairs committee, said: ‘If this was a Chinese Communist Party spy then it is yet another example of this regime’s cack-handed malign incompetence.
‘It would be completely inappropriate for Beijing to send an operative to intimidate or record people inside a private parliamentary event.’
Mr Lau, who was once beaten unconscious by suspected CCP supporters, said: ‘I believe this man was a CCP informer. This is one of the remotest committee rooms in Parliament. And it is on the top floor. It is not a coincidence that a random Chinese tourist was outside the room at the exact right time and was attempting to access the event.
‘The incident is just the latest example of CCP harassment Hong Kongers like me have faced. But I will not be deterred and I will continue to advocate for democracy in Hong Kong.’
Mark Sabah, of the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation, said: ‘CCP operatives regularly infiltrate meetings and gatherings right across the UK, especially events organised by people critical of the Beijing regime.’
China has sanctioned several prominent British MPs and peers, including former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith and ministers Nusrat Ghani and Tom Tugendhat.
In response Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle told China’s ambassador he could not come to Parliament while the sanctions remained in place.
Sir Iain said last night: ‘The Government must act on this – it is astonishing.
At far left table Hong Kong activists, Christopher Mung (LEFT grey hair, dark shirt, glasses) and Finn Lau (right, black hair, dark shirt and suit) ) sit either side of Conservative MP and Foreign Affairs Committee member Bob Seely (red braces) who chaired the event, a private parliamentary briefing about Hong Kong on the top floor of the House of Commons
Finn Lau talks to the media on College Green, London. Mr Lau, who now lives in the UK after fleeing Hong Kong, is among the eight activists who have had HK$1 million bounties for their arrests placed on them by the Hong Kong government
‘We need to be sure that anyone acting suspiciously or refusing to identify themselves in Parliament is removed immediately.
‘The CCP is a deeply unreliable and nasty organisation doing its level best to undermine security and free speech here in the UK.’
Tory MP Alicia Kearns, who chairs the foreign affairs committee, said: ‘These reports are very concerning. We have seen how far the CCP is prepared to take its repression of freedoms in Hong Kong.
‘Now it suggests they have information on private meetings in Parliament. We must protect the right of brave Hong Kongers to speak out against the actions of the People’s Republic of China, not least in the mother of parliaments, and do everything in our power to prevent Beijing from pursuing its campaign of trans-national repression on UK soil.
‘No one from the Chinese government should be setting foot in Parliament after their assault on the freedoms of MPs, let alone sneaking around our corridors.’
Security and intelligence expert Philip Ingram said: ‘This sounds 100 per cent like it was a bold-as-brass attempt by Chinese intelligence to spy on dissidents in the room.
‘Often, Chinese state security will ask people associated with Chinese police stations to report on and track individuals they have an interest in.’
Labour MP Sir Chris Bryant, a former foreign minister, said: ‘We need to be like hawks about who has access to parliamentary meetings.’
Luke de Pulford, of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, said: ‘Every time we arrange a public event on China we assume at least one person has infiltrated. The parliamentary authorities should look at this closely.’
The meeting was addressed by Mr Lau and Mr Mung, who last week had £100,000 arrest bounties put on their heads by Beijing-controlled Hong Kong police
Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Layla Moran said: ‘These are deeply concerning allegations which the UK Government must immediately investigate.
‘The Foreign Secretary must make absolutely clear that we will not tolerate the attempts by the CCP to interfere in our democracy.’ Security staff had been warned ahead of the event that CCP informers might try to attend and intimidate or record attendees. Guards were told to be vigilant and to let people in only if they were on the list of invitees.
Members of the public can visit Parliament but are prohibited from straying from tour routes without supervision. They are allowed into restricted areas only with an MP or a parliamentary staffer.
MI5 boss Ken McCallum warned in November that it had seen ‘more concerning activity’ from China including the ‘harassment and assault’ of Chinese dissidents living in Britain. He also warned that Chinese authorities were seeking to ‘co-opt and influence’ people across the public sector, including British MPs.
The House of Commons and the Chinese Embassy were approached for comment.
Brave pro-democracy activists targeted by the Chinese ‘spy’
The Commons meeting targeted by an alleged Chinese spy was addressed by Finn Lau, an exiled Hong Kong dissident and human rights advocate.
The 29-year-old chartered surveyor fled to the UK in 2019 to escape persecution.
Mr Lau popularised the term lam chau – mutual destruction – or the idea that protesters would sacrifice everything in the pursuit of liberation from the communist regime in Beijing.
He has set up the campaign groups, Hong Kong Liberty and Stand with Hong Kong.
Mr Lau is among three British-based Hong Kongers who now have a £100,000 arrest bounty hanging over their heads issued by the Beijing-controlled Hong Kong authorities.
Another of them is Christopher Mung, 51, who also spoke at the meeting in the Commons.
The trade union activist flew to the UK in 2021 to escape persecution by the communist authorities.
He heads the Hong Kong Labour Rights Monitor, which campaigns for better work conditions.
In response to the bounty on his head, Mr Mung has said China ‘can never eliminate the voice of the Hong Kong people.