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Chinese Couple Barred From UK Over Communist Party Donation Allegations

A pair of wealthy Chinese nationals have been barred from entering the UK after the government accused them of being involved in making donations to British political figures on behalf of the Chinese Communist party.

The married couple, both of whom had leave to remain in the UK, received the bans last year, but details of their exclusion have only now emerged in a case before a secretive immigration tribunal.

A recent ruling in the case has revealed how the Home Office wrote to the individuals in March 2022, informing them that the home secretary at the time, Priti Patel, had personally ordered their exclusion.

In letters sent to the couple, officials said their exclusion was “due to your involvement in providing financial donations to UK political figures on behalf of the Chinese Communist party (CCP). We therefore deem your presence in the UK is not conducive to the public good”.

Extracts of the letters are included in the ruling by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac), a specialist tribunal that hears appeals by individuals removed or blocked from the UK on national security grounds.

Specific details about the couple’s alleged involvement in UK politics or which political figures received donations linked to them are not referred to in the ruling.

However, the judgment suggests they were clients of a law firm run by Christine Lee, a solicitor accused by MI5 last year of being a Chinese agent engaged in a covert campaign to influence UK politicians.

According to the ruling, Christine Lee & Co solicitors handled immigration applications made by the individuals, one of whom obtained a tier 1 investor visa in 2012 and later secured indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

The couple, who cannot be identified due to an anonymity order made by Siac, frequently travelled to the UK and owned property in England. They were both overseas when the exclusion notices were issued.

Siac’s ruling granted the individuals – identified by the commission as C17 and C18 – an extension to a deadline that allows them to appeal against their exclusion.

The decision to refuse them entry to the UK was made under legislation allowing the government to exclude someone based on information it claims should not be made public, typically for national security reasons.

The Home Office issued the exclusion notices two months after MI5 issued a rare security alert warning MPs of covert “political interference activities” in parliament on behalf of the CCP, the governing political party in China.

In its alert, MI5 accused Lee, a well-connected figure in Westminster, of having “facilitated financial donations to serving and aspiring parliamentarians on behalf of foreign nationals based in Hong Kong and China”.

China’s foreign ministry responded to the allegations at the time by insisting there was “no factual basis” for the claims against Lee. Its embassy in London criticised the alert, which it characterised as “smearing and intimidation against the Chinese community in the UK”.

Siac made no reference in its recent ruling to any connection between the government’s allegations against the two barred Chinese nationals and the MI5 security warning.

The Guardian has approached Lee and the law firm she founded for comment. The Home Office declined to comment.

Source : TheGuardian