By Ben Ellery and Sam Dunning
April 18, 2022
Christine Lee, centre, who founded the British Chinese Project, is said to have links with the Chinese government
Two groups that receive government funding to welcome people moving from Hong Kong to Britain have been accused of being linked to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The Times can reveal fears that the Chinese Community Centre — Birmingham (CCC-B) and Chinese Association of Southampton (CAS) have been infiltrated.
Nathan Law, a Hong Kong activist who fled to the UK, and the expat group Hongkongers in Britain (HKB) has expressed concerns about British Chinese groups welcoming Hong Kong citizens.
Two of the Birmingham centre’s directors worked with the British Chinese Project, a scheme founded by Christine Lee, a lawyer who MI5 warned was trying to influence parliamentarians on behalf of China’s Communist Party.
James Wong, patron of the centre, which has received £34,719 government funding under the Hong Kong British National (Overseas) welcome programme, was awarded a place to visit China. The visit was sponsored by the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office, which has since been absorbed by the United Front Work Department, the Communist Party’s overseas propaganda unit.
Ping Hua, founder of the Chinese Association of Southampton, which received £20,130 of government funding under the welcome programme, wrote an article defending the treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang. She wrote that America: “Has created all kinds of appalling lies and fabrications on human rights issues. These unjustified falsehoods have resulted in a witch-hunt against China, from unwarranted charges concerning Xinjiang to provocative subversion in Hong Kong”.
HKB said it had “grave concerns” about Chinese Communists targeting Hongkongers and overseas Chinese people. It risks neutering our political asylum, and endangers democracy and freedom — just what BNO visa-holders came here to find.”
Law said: “The origin of the BNO scheme was the suppression of basic freedom and human rights in Hong Kong. I believe this funding should not be awarded to organisations that support these intrusions of the Chinese government.”
The Birmingham community centre said: “The concerns are unfounded and we are offended with the damaging and malicious allegations that CCC-B has been influenced by the CPC and is monitoring HK BNOs in the UK.”
A spokesman for the CAS said that Hua was no longer a member and added: “The demonstrations in Hong Kong during 2019 have highly charged the political landscape and relations between Hong Kong, China and the UK. We do not wish for this toxicity to seep into the non-toxic environment which our charity has cultivated for decades in which its purpose is for purely the celebration of Chinese culture and traditions (Hong Kong included), which date back thousands of years before the takeover of China by the CCP. We as an organisation do not hold any political opinions regarding current issues.
“The reason why we applied for government funding for the Hong Kong BNO Welcome programme is that we as a non-profit charity aim to help Hong Kong people to successfully settle down in the UK, to integrate with and to contribute to British society, in accordance with British values and traditions – including the support of freedom, free speech and democracy.
“We work closely with the British government and the local council, and we adhere to the rules and regulations closely. It is a shame that although CAS has made genuine and considerable efforts in partnership with the British government, to help and support the newcomers from Hong Kong to settle, we nonetheless have still been pulled into the highly charged and toxic environment of politics. We do not want this, and this has served only to prevent and degrade our ability to provide the necessary help to the people that need it.”