How a Chinese handbag seller married a peer and now finds herself at the heart of the Establishment amid fears over Beijing's influence on Britain

Li Xuelin has always been a woman in a hurry. But perhaps on her wedding day, she allowed herself a moment to reflect on her dizzying, though carefully calibrated, journey from communist China to the heart of the British Establishment.'Love of my life': Lord Bates and Li Xuelin on their wedding day in 2012
After exchanging vows on July 20, 2012, she emerged from the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft in the Palace of Westminster on the arm of Conservative peer Michael Bates.
There was at least one Cabinet Minister present, and though they couldn’t make it, then Prime Minister David Cameron and wife Samantha sent a ‘warm’ congratulatory letter.
Few of China’s citizens were now better placed than smart and glamorous Xuelin to influence UK politics – though she denies working to further the regime’s interests in Britain.
Since arriving in London in 1989 fresh out of a Chinese university and with just £50 to her name, Xuelin had networked her way to a key role as an adviser to Cameron’s Government.
And now she could call herself Lady Bates, with all the trappings the title bestows.
Love can blossom in the most unlikely places. Li Xuelin met her husband – ‘the love of my life’ – at a dinner she was hosting for, of all people, the Speaker of the North Korean parliament. Lord Bates, a former MP and Minister, had long been interested in the secretive state. He was also a friend of its closest ally, China.
A new book, Hidden Hand, names Xuelin, 56, as ‘a prominent influencer on China matters’ and claims she has succeeded in positioning herself close to Britain’s top elites, where she could spread a ‘Chinese perspective’.
The book argues that the Chinese Communist Party has infiltrated the UK Establishment and says Lord Bates was at Chinese president Xi Jingping’s meeting with the elite of the CCP’s British friends, along with prominent faces from the pro-Beijing 48 Group Club, of which Bates is a fellow.
Royal connections: Li Xuelin with Prince Charles in 2017
Royal connections: Li Xuelin with Prince Charles in 2017
Since her wedding, Lady Bates has continued cultivating top political contacts, while simultaneously highlighting CCP policies, including the flagship Belt and Road initiative, the infrastructure project cited by critics as a worrying example of China’s global expansion.
In what Hidden Hand describes as ‘one of the clearest signs of the CCP’s faith in her’, Xuelin was executive vice-president of the UK Chinese Association for the Promotion of National Reunification, the British chapter of the Beijing body which promotes the CCP’s position on Taiwan. China sees Taiwan as a breakaway province that will eventually become part of the mainland again.
And Xuelin was vice-president of the council of the Zhejiang Overseas Exchange Association, which the book says was an affiliate of the United Front Work Department, the CCP agency tasked with liaising with Chinese expats. 

Pro-China club chief gave thousands to Labour

By Abul Taher, Security Correspondent for the Mail on Sunday
The chairman of a lobby group accused of ‘grooming’ British politicians on behalf of the Chinese Communist regime was once a Labour Party donor, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
Stephen Perry’s 48 Group Club is a pro-Beijing body whose patrons and fellows include Labour and Tory grandees such as Peter Mandelson, Jack Straw and Michael Heseltine. Its gala events have attracted Tony Blair and former Chancellor George Osborne.
The 48 Group Club says it tries to improve trade relations between Britain and China, but a new book claims it was founded by secret members of the British Communist Party and spreads Beijing’s propaganda in the UK. 
Greetings: Stephen Perry meets President Xi Jinping in China in 2018
Greetings: Stephen Perry meets President Xi Jinping in China in 2018
The MoS has now established that Mr Perry, 71, donated £5,000 to Labour in 1997. The following year he gave a further £5,000 and £25,000 in 1999.
Two years later, Mr Perry was at the centre of a row when it emerged he had become a key adviser on China to the Blair government. But his funding of Labour continued. In August 2016, he donated £22,500 towards the campaign by Owen Smith to become leader of the party. He eventually lost to Jeremy Corbyn.
The accusations about the 48 Group Club’s activities are made in a book, Hidden Hand, by Clive Hamilton and Mareike Ohlberg. The book, which has been published in Australia and Canada and will soon be available in the UK – claims the club was founded in 1953 by three members of the British Communist Party. It is named after a delegation of 48 British businessmen who visited China on a trade mission. 
Hidden Hand claims the three founders of the Group – Jack Perry, the father of Stephen Perry, and his two close associates, Roland Berger and Bernard Buckman – were secret British Communist Party members. 
The authors allege: ‘At the instigation of a member of the standing committee of the Politburo, Zhou Enlai [first Chinese Premier], the 48 Group was the work of three secret members of the Communist Party of Great Britain.’
Hidden Hand accuses Stephen Perry, who runs London Export Corporation, a business set up by his father, of parroting the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda in the UK and praising its authoritarian president, Xi Jinping, as the leader who ‘frees minds’.
In a blog in April last year, Mr Perry wrote: ‘A new world is coming and its conceptual source has a name on it – Xi Jinping. We would be smart to recognise a partner and not turn our backs.’
Last night, Mr Perry did not respond to questions sent by this newspaper. He has previously said: ‘Being an independent body, the 48 Group Club does not have a formal relationship with any other organisation, whether inside or outside China.’
Mr Perry has also said he has written to the publishers of the Hidden Hand to correct factual errors. He also rejects claims that the group targets elites. The 48 Group Club also failed to comment on whether Jack Perry was a member of the British Communist Party.

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