The diplomatic war over Huawei took an extraordinary twist last night after having a controversial dossier accused China of wanting to manipulate key Establishment figures in the UK.
Entitled China’s Elite Capture, the 86-page report details an so-called campaign by Beijing to persuade influential individuals to back Huawei and its strategic aims.
Among a string of incendiary claims, the dossier described the Chinese telecoms firm as ‘Beijing’s strategic asset’ and cited fears it could be useful for state spying. It said politicians, academics and other ‘elites’ in the UK was targeted by China so as to secure their support for Huawei’s integration into Britain’s technology infrastructure.
China’s Elite Capture was compiled with the help of controversial former MI6 spy Christopher Steele, and others. Mr Steele is notorious for his role in drawing up a ‘dirty dossier’ about Russia and Donald Trump.
The British figures targeted, the dossier claims, included Sir Kenneth Olisa, the Lord Lieutenant of London, pictured above with the Duchess of Cambridge
The latest dossier names several prominent individuals it alleged was targeted included in the pro-Huawei campaign, claiming the aim had been to create them China’s ‘useful idiots’. Last night, those identified in the report issued statements strenuously denying the claims, dismissing them as ‘bizarre’ and just like a ‘conspiracy theory’. Huawei categorically dismissed the dossier, saying its findings had ‘no basis in fact’.
Ex-MI6 man behind ‘dirty dossier’ on Donald Trump
The bold claim is reportedly manufactured in a dossier made in part by the firm co-founded by ex-MI6 spy Christopher Steele
Former British spy Christopher Steele was behind the Donald Trump ‘dirty dossier’ which alleged he’d cosied around Russian president Vladimir Putin and cavorted with prostitutes.
The US President, who was President-elect when the dossier came out in January 2017, dismissed the report as ‘false and fictitious’.
Mr Steele, 56, left MI6 in 2009 before setting up private firm Orbis Business Intelligence, which has contributed to the Huawei report.
He was once MI6’s top spy on Russian affairs and lived in the shadows until being revealed as the writer of the Trump dossier. Mr Steele joined MI6 after graduating from Cambridge where he was described as a ‘confirmed socialist’.
As an intelligence officer in Moscow, he was frequently harassed by the KGB. He went on to become head of MI6’s Russia desk – meaning he was one of the Secret Intelligence Service’s most senior spies.
When Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko was murdered in London in 2006, the then head of MI6, Sir John Scarlett, looked to Mr Steele, who handled the case with ‘expert professionalism’, it was said.
Mr Steele figured Mr Litvinenko had been poisoned in a Kremlin-sponsored ‘hit’.
Mr Steele co-founded Orbis Business Intelligence with another former MI6 officer, Christopher Burrows.
It has earned huge sums over the years and was instrumental in exposing corruption at world football body Fifa.
But it was Mr Steele’s gold-plated contacts in Moscow that led wealthy opponents of Mr Trump to the entranceway of Orbis’s discreet Belgravia office.
They commissioned him to analyze Mr Trump’s dealings in Russia. The sensational results included claims that the Kremlin kept a blackmail file on the President-elect which was believed to contain a video of Mr Trump with Moscow prostitutes who are doing a ‘sexually perverted’ act.
Mr Steele was born in 1964 in Aden – his father was in the military – and grew up in Surrey before attending Girton College, Cambridge. He was president of the Cambridge Union debating society in 1986 – the same year Boris Johnson was president of the Oxford Union.
Contemporaries recalled an ‘avowedly Left-wing student’.
In 2017, Mr Trump lashed out during a press conference and called the dossier ‘fake news’.
The telecoms giant also said the report – which was commissioned and funded by an American-Scottish film producer who has spoken out from the firm – was element of a US attempt to discredit it.
The dossier’s extraordinary claims are likely to intensify the diplomatic row over Huawei, which presents a critical threat to Britain-China relations.
China’s ambassador to Britain warned that trade between the two countries could possibly be at risk if the Government changed its mind about Huawei’s involvement in the 5G network.
Boris Johnson is thought to be on the brink of an alteration of heart on the problem amid concerns about Huawei from British security officials. At the same time frame, a powerful alliance of at the very least 60 Tory MPs, including a string of former ministers, is threatening to vote down any make an effort to allow Huawei into the system.
The dossier also alleged: ‘The origins of China’s elite capture of the united kingdom come from the David Cameron era: George Osborne, Cameron’s finance minister, spearheaded a drive to encourage Chinese investment in to the UK and minimise any UK criticism of China’s human rights record.’
The dossier, seen by the Daily Mail, is not being formally published, and doesn’t contain corroborating evidence of a few of its claims. It allegations include:
Politicians, academics, as well as other ‘elites’ were targeted by the Chinese Communist Party with the intention of earning them either ‘useful idiots’ or ‘full-time agents’;
A covert ‘manipulation’ campaign was co-ordinated by Chinese authorities on the ‘dark web’ for more than 2 yrs;
Britain’s spies fear a cell setup in the UK to monitor Huawei will not stop the Chinese from spying on communications;
There is evidence that a ‘state actor’ sought to hack the cell’s activities by offering up £600,000 to ‘guns for hire’ on the dark web.
Huawei is ‘closely linked to the Chinese Communist Party and is instrumental in its plans to gain a greater say in global affairs’;
China’s ‘main objectives’ are to determine a presence in the UK’s critical national infrastructure, including power – such as the nuclear power station at Hinkley Point – and telecoms with Huawei.
There is growing hostility on the Tory benches towards China. As well as the Huawei controversy, MPs are pushing ministers to take a robust stand against Beijing over both Hong Kong and China’s apparent attempt to hide the initial coronavirus epidemic.
Ministers are privately considered to accept that Beijing’s increasingly aggressive world wide stance – and Tory antipathy to it – means that the ‘Golden Age’ of relations trumpeted by Mr Cameron is all but over. Mr Steele and former diplomat Arthur Snell, both of Orbis Business Intelligence, contributed to the newest dossier, which alleges Huawei is a ‘front for Chinese intelligence’ and element of its ambitions is to set up a presence in Britain’s critical infrastructure.
A covert influence campaign allegedly included Truman Show-style fake radio shows, that have been invented to persuade participants to support the firm, alongside phishing emails and other practices. The report – which also includes input from an ex-government official – claims the campaign was operate on behalf of Huawei.
The British figures targeted, the dossier claims, included Sir Kenneth Olisa, the Lord Lieutenant of London, and Sir Mike Rake, the former chairman of BT – both now on its non-executive UK board.
The report alleges that Lord Clement Jones, a Lib Dem peer and spokesman for the digital economy and former Huawei adviser, and Dr Sarah Wollaston, then chairman of the liaison committee – which is composed of the chairmen of the 32 Commons select committees – were also allegedly singled out. John Suffolk, the former Government chief information officer turned Huawei’s head of world wide security, was another named by the report.
However, yesterday evening four of these five figures all strenuously denied the claims. The other, Dr Wollaston, said she wasn’t aware of any emails and in any event failed to have any relationship with Huawei, nor would she.
There was no supporting evidence to straight back the claims up in the report and Huawei also denied all the allegations. A spokesman said: ‘We categorically refute these unfounded allegations, which do not bear scrutiny and are regrettably the latest in the long-running US campaign against Huawei.’
Other parts of the dossier cast doubt on UK claims that the security risks of Huawei could be mitigated. The dossier claims that Britain’s spies fear that a ‘cell’ set up here to monitor the work of Huawei can not prevent the Chinese from spying on communications.
Another so-called target was Sarah Wollaston (pictured), the former Conservative and Lib Dem MP, who before losing her seat was chairman of the liaison committee that had the capacity to question the prime minister
This cell could be the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre Oversight Board in Banbury, Oxfordshire. It is bought by Huawei but is supervised by GCHQ, Britain’s security agency.
In terms of the campaign to manipulate British figures, the dossier claimed the five individuals were targeted by an operation operate on the dark web ‘on behalf of Huawei’ as part of a covert ‘manipulation campaign’.
Targets were put through fake news articles, phishing emails and three of these were allegedly invited to fake foreign shows with a panel of other guests ‘there to try and change their opinion’.
The dossier said: ‘The targets did not know that the radio stations were fake and thought they were participating in interviews with online radio stations from Hong Kong, Belgium, India and Austria.’
Sir Kenneth said: ‘I was surprised to discover I turned up on radio shows in India and I’d want to hear the recording.’ Lord Clement-Jones issued a robust denial, saying of the radio shows: ‘I’ve never taken part in any such thing like that.’
Sir Mike said: ‘I have had no contact with any third-party organisation or social media purporting to support Huawei.’ Mr Suffolk said: ‘This is nonsense. If someone is paying money to influence me through social media I would suggest they demand their money back.’ Dr Wollaston said: ‘I was approached as liaison committee chairman by the House magazine to ask if we would have an event sponsored by Huawei but I turned it down.
‘I wouldn’t took any money from the company like Huawei. If they were sending me emails, I wouldn’t have seen them as my team might have known I wouldn’t have accepted it.’
The report was commissioned by Andrew Duncan, 56, a film producer in New York, who said he believed Huawei was a ‘national security risk to the democratic world’. Mr Duncan funded the project to the tune of tens and thousands of dollars.
China’s ambassador to London, Liu Xiaoming, said: ‘I would totally reject any accusation of interference in UK’s internal affairs.’