The United Kingdom’s Home Office has charged a wealthy Chinese couple with making political contributions on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and has subsequently forbidden them from re-entering the UK.
Former Home Secretary, Priti Patel, notified the couple of the resolution in March 2022, as per a recent immigration appeals tribunal legal document. Patel served from 2019 to 2022.
The couple — whose names were shielded by an anonymity order — also had connections with Christine Lee & Co Solicitors: a legal establishment initiated by Christine Ching Kui Lee, identified as a CCP agent by MI5, according to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) decision.
A tangled web
The pair, a 60-year-old woman known as C17, and her 62-year-old spouse, C18, originate from Guangdong, a province in southern China bordering Hong Kong. The family resides in Hong Kong, and they had traveled to the UK multiple times before the COVID-19 outbreak, as indicated in a judgment file.
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According to the file, C17 was granted a Tier 1 Investor Visa in 2012, which required a minimum investment of £1.7 million in UK share capital or registered UK businesses. The document also stated that C17 had explained to the tribunal that she had withdrawn her investment in 2017 due to unsatisfactory performance.
C17 — along with the pair’s two younger sons — were granted an indefinite leave to remain (ILR). C18 was given limited leave to remain, while the couple’s eldest son, who was educated in the UK, holds British citizenship.
A sizable net worth
C17 bought a two-bedroom flat in Cambridge for her eldest son to reside in during his studies. From last February, the flat was leased, and the couple was “seriously contemplating” enrolling their youngest son in an English school, the document stated.
The document also stated that C18 owns “numerous companies,” with around “200–300 employees” and over 10 secretaries in both the UK and China.
Parts of Patel’s letters to the couple were included in the ruling, informing them that she had “personally ordered” their exclusion from the UK due to their “engagement in facilitating financial contributions to UK political figures on behalf of the CCP.”
“We have consequently determined your presence in the UK is not in the public interest,” the letters said, cautioning them that they would be denied entry if they attempted to travel to the UK.
The letter to C18 also indicated his limited leave to remain had been revoked, though the political figures they allegedly contributed to remain undisclosed.
Subsequently, the couple’s appeal was submitted late as they did not see the letter until May of the previous year. Earlier this month, the SIAC decided it would be unfair not to grant them extensions.
The document also highlighted the couple’s recurring engagement with Christine Lee & Co. solicitors pertaining to their own visas, entry clearance, and UK residency status — including that of their offspring. Interestingly, the Home Office’s decision to bar this couple from the UK followed two months after MI5 singled out Lee in an unusual action.
The intelligence agency issued a warning in January of the previous year, stating Lee had been “actively involved in political interference activities on behalf of the UFWD of the CCP.”
The agency claimed Lee had been facilitating financial donations to political parties and politicians and warned that anyone contacted by her should be “aware of her connection with the Chinese state and her role in promoting the CCP’s agenda in UK politics.”
A month after issuing the warning, MI5 Director General Ken McCallum stated that the agency had to name Lee as British law was insufficient to deal with a covert agent of a foreign power, raising questions about conflicts of interest and other ethical considerations of law firms involved in such cases.