Two Croydon MPs clashed in the House of Commons yesterday, as the Tory Government faced criticism from security services and its own backbenches over its failure to act against infiltration by the Chinese state.
By WALTER CRONXITE, political editor
Croydon MPs Sarah Jones and Chris Philp clashed in the House of Commons yesterday, as an Urgent Question over the security threat posed by secret “Chinese police stations” that are dotted around the country – including one on Croydon High Street – brought a suitably flaky and typically unsatisfactory response from the Tory Government’s spokesperson.
The UQ saw Philp standing in for Tom Tugendhat, the absent security minister. Philp was, once again, found to be woefully out of its depth. Or, as John Crace, the Grauniad’s parliamentary sketch writer, noted today, “a disaster”.
Crace wrote of Philp: “His desperation makes the skin crawl.”
The Urgent Question was asked by shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper (Philp’s boss, the execrable Suella Braverman, was nowhere to be seen) after a lengthy report appeared in yesterday’s Times newspaper.
The newspaper largely went over the same ground that Inside Croydon reported last November, based on the findings of Spanish civil liberties group Safeguard Defenders. They had discovered documentary evidence that the Chinese Communist Party is operating a secret police station in Croydon, part of a global network intended to control and intimidate former nationals who have made their homes outside China.
Other Chinese police stations in Britain have been located in Hendon and in Glasgow. In Ireland, the Government there ordered the immediate closure of a Chinese police station. In Britain, Philp and his Government just expressed their “concern”…
Yesterday, The Times reported that Ruiyou Lin “runs a takeaway ordering platform in Croydon from an office address which hosts an alleged overseas Chinese police station”. And significantly, they linked Lin to the Conservative Party in Britain, his having dined out with Prime Ministers Theresa May and Boris Johnson, as well as having met ministers Sajid Javid and Gavin Williamson.
The businessman has repeatedly denied any links to the Chinese Communist Party or state security services.
Sarah Jones was mentioned in the article, as having also met Lin, something which the Labour MP for Croydon Central denies, saying that she had received a request for a meeting from Lin as a constituent, though no such meeting had taken place. The newspaper report has been updated to reflect this.
Lin is not the only one not to have met Jones. Despite repeated requests, even texts to the security minister from Jones over the past six months, Tugendhat, too, had failed to meet the Croydon Central MP to discuss this security matter which most others consider to be both serious and urgent.
It came to Jones’s turn to speak in the Commons: “I am perplexed, and my constituents are very concerned,” she said.
“At the start of November, the security minister said in response to an urgent question that there was an investigation and that he would come back to the House as soon as possible to provide a report. He promised to meet me.
“I have emailed him multiple times and have even texted him, but I have had nothing in response, and now we read that the man in Croydon has links to both the Chinese Communist Party and the Conservative Party.
“Was the security Minister’s failure to respond to me multiple times a discourtesy?
“Or is there something else going on?”
It was the kind of rhetorical pivot of which Dennis Skinner would have been proud.
Philp got up to reply. He was shocked! Shocked!
“That insinuation of party political influence is frankly a disgraceful slur,” said the hon member for Croydon South, without actually denying that there had been party political influence exerted.
“The hon lady is not doing Croydon residents a service by attempting to ask the question in the way that she just did. I do know, because I have asked him, that the security minister has never met or encountered the gentleman concerned.”
Which is not something that anyone had ever suggested. Lin had gone to the top – with May and Johnson.
Philp then admitted that Tugendhat, the elusive security minister, “does, however, owe the hon lady an update”.
And Philp offered this undertaking to the House: “I will make sure that the security minister meets with both the hon lady and the hon Member for Glasgow Central [Alison Thewliss] extremely quickly to provide an update on this issue.”
None of which, of course, explains why it has taken six months for an MP to even get a meeting with the minister on this, when the Irish Government slung the Chinese spies out of the country immediately they were discovered.
Unless, of course, there is something else going on.
Jones is not alone in her suspicions around the reluctance of the Tory government to act over the Chinese secret police stations. Her concerns are shared by the director-general of MI5, who knows a thing or two about spies and security threats, and a former leader of… (checks notes) …the Conservative Party.
MI5’s Ken McCallum was quoted by The Times as saying that the Chinese authorities were willing to play “the long game in cultivating contacts to manipulate opinion in China’s favour”. This would include the targeting of prominent politicians as well as, The Times said, “those such as local councillors who are at the beginning of their careers in public life”. They didn’t elaborate, unfortunately.
Iain Duncan Smith, the self-proclaimed “quiet man” of politics (many might suggest not quiet enough) had told The Times that his Government “seems ambivalent to the whole idea of what’s going on” over the secret police stations.
“This goes on endlessly and we seem not to care about it,” he told the paper.
In the House of Commons, Tory backbencher Duncan Smith followed up where Sarah Jones had left off. He, too, questioned the reluctance of the authorities to take action.
“The problem is that we in this House and the Government have known for a considerable time — it has been raised by many of my colleagues — about the activity of the three illegal Chinese police stations.
“We know that they are bringing Chinese dissidents in, confronting them with videos of their families, and threatening their families in front of them if they do not co-operate, leave and go back to China. We know that.
“The security services have warned the Government about it.
“The question today is this: why in heaven’s name have we not acted, alongside the Americans and even the Dutch, to shut those stations down and kick those people out of the country?”
It was at this point that Philp, only hurriedly briefed earlier in the day, went into near-meltdown. As Crace would have it, Philp “makes Tom in Succession look positively self-assured”.
The Grauniad’s chap in the lobby wrote: “It was Philp’s misfortune to be forced to answer an urgent question on Chinese police stations in the UK. Something he clearly knew nothing about…
“The know-nothing schtick quickly grew thin. He couldn’t imagine how a Tory donor could have set up his own illegal police station for the Chinese state. One of the downsides of not having an imagination,” Crace wrote.
“Philp soldiered on. He would be consulting the ‘law enforcement community’. He said that twice. Almost as if he was talking about someone security-curious. He was a disaster.”
Meanwhile, if you want to order a Chinese takeaway, Lin’s All Eat front for the spooks in Beijing continues to operate from The Arcade on Croydon High Street, unhindered by the British security services.
Read more: MP ‘alarmed’ to discover Chinese ‘police station’ on High Street
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Clearly some politicians are pandering to the yen in the hope of a brexit bonanza still. One has to wonder how much rear end bowing those Politicians can take before realising that they are being used and abused and laughed at?
But as usual this government leaves itself wide open to accusations with merit that they are choosing when to implement the laws of this Country and whom they wish to prosecute in their own interest.
It is most certainly not in the public interest.
There is no hope anyone is going to believe that they are watching them to lead to others – especially when they know you know what they are doing.
Shows that asylum seakers from regimes with abuses to human rights can intimidate with impunity in Great Britain ad infinitum does it not.
Perhaps someone thinks by allowing that to carry on, that will be a stronger deterrent to asylum seakers than shipping them to Rwanda?
Ms Cooper and Ms Jones please continue to ”not do us humble Croydon residents the services” you are so admirably doing and Philp flop is not”
Welcome to the school playground.
Jones has done nothing to attend to to basic problems in my area and never answers messages.
I hate politics and politicians,
It’s all vacuous talk and no action.
Why all the whinging?
At least the Chinese Police Stations have invested in Croydon.
Philp knows what side to butter the toast and no doubt Pluto Finance will graciously provide any further investment advice to assist their expansion plans.
Perhaps the Tories are planning on outsourcing Policing to the Chinese State too and pump prime their radical post rule of law policies, which can only be made up by those who live on another planet.
It is true that Xi Jinping created more police stations in London than Boris Johnson ever did as the city’s Mayor
It wouldn’t be because he couldn’t find his trousers would it?
Where do you get your idea about these police stations being full of spies?