Organisations linked to an alleged Chinese secret police station in Glasgow repeatedly invited Nicola Sturgeon to the premises while she was first minister and met Jeremy Corbyn when he was Labour leader, The Ferret can reveal.
Glasgow’s Loon Fung restaurant on Sauchiehall Street has been under investigation by Police Scotland since being named as a secret overseas police station for Chinese officers by human rights organisation, Safeguard Defenders.
The alleged foreign outposts, which “violate the international rule of law”, were set up by a Chinese state body which aims to influence foreign politicians and control expats, according to the NGO. Loon Fung has denied accusations of wrongdoing.
The Ferret previously revealed that the man we linked to Loon Fung, Jimmy Lin, met with Boris Johnson at a Conservative party fundraiser while he was prime minister, and wined and dined Alex Salmond while he was first minister.
Our revelations prompted both the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China and the Scottish Liberal Democrats to call for an inquiry into how Chinese state operatives may have attempted to influence political leaders.
Luke de Pulford, the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China’s executive director, said the “murky connections between the Chinese Communist Party and Scottish elites have to be exposed” and that “an inquiry is long overdue”
In October, Sturgeon held talks about Loon Fung with Police Scotland, after the original allegations emerged. Government communications obtained by The Ferret under freedom of information show that Sturgeon had previously been invited to Lung Fung by organisations linked to alleged secret police.
The Scottish Government said ministers “regularly engage with a wide variety of people and organisations in Scotland” but does “not comment on national security matters.”
Sturgeon was asked to join Chinese holiday celebrations multiple times between 2014 and 2019, but declined due to diary commitments. Salmond accepted an invitation to Loon Fung in 2014.
One 2019 invitation to Sturgeon – from the Scottish Fujian Chamber of Commerce (SFCC), of which Lin is owner and chairman – asked her to join Chinese new year celebrations at Sichuan House – another Chinese restaurant on Sauchiehall Street.
Sichuan House is the registered address of the SFCC, of which Lin is a former director and which Safeguard Defenders claimed is also linked to the Chinese state.
Communications also show that in 2011, a representative of Loon Fung was invited to attend a reception to welcome the then-leader of Hong Kong to Scotland, in Edinburgh Castle’s great hall.
We can also reveal that Corbyn met with members of the Glasgow Chinese Recreation Centre (GCRC), which is chaired by Lin, while the Glasgow Labour MSP Paul Sweeney personally met with Lin.
The GCRC exists to promote recreational activities for local Chinese residents. The charity failed to provide Scotland’s charity regulator with key financial and other information for the last two years.
Images posted on social media by the GCRC in 2021 show Lin and Sweeney together on three separate occasions, including one of the pair shaking hands at Sichuan House.
In an annual return submitted by the GCRC to Scotland’s charity regulator, a redacted document states that on 22 August 2018, the “leader of the Labour Party” and an MSP “were invited to have a visit to GCRC Wednesday social group”.
A letter to Corbyn from the “Wednesday social group in north Glasgow”, dated 26 September 2018 and posted on Sweeney’s Facebook page, said: “We are a group of Chinese in Glasgow. It was our great pleasure to meet you on 22nd August 2018 during your visit to Scotland… We know you are a peace lover and advocate the international disarmament… All of our members want to meet you again either in Glasgow or London in future.”
Another image on Sweeney’s Facebook page shows Corbyn and the MSP holding the letter.
Images of Corbyn’s meeting with the GCRC on Sweeney’s page match those published in press articles at the time of Corbyn’s Glasgow visit. The GCRC apparently attended a meeting at Possilpark Parish Church in which the then-Labour leader had arranged to meet asylum seekers who had allegedly received “abusive” behaviour from the UK Home Office. Then-Scottish Labour leader, Richard Leonard, also attended.
During a UK parliamentary debate on 23 May 2019, Sweeney, who was an MP at the time, said the GCRC “had a visit from the leader of the opposition last year, which they loved.”
A spokesperson for Sweeney said he had met with Lin in his capacity as the GCRC chairman. “The meetings were to establish ways to increase integration and the level of engagement Glasgow’s Chinese community have in Scotland’s political processes from which they are often excluded or have limited knowledge.
“Mr Sweeney was concerned to hear about the allegations made regarding the Loon Fung restaurant in Glasgow and at no point was this or anything similar discussed at any of the meetings with Mr Lin. All meetings took place prior to those allegations being made.”
Inquiry ‘long overdue’
The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China’s executive director, Luke de Pulford, said: “An inquiry is long overdue, especially in light of the favourable bilateral relationship between the two countries, which hasn’t deteriorated in recent years despite Beijing’s mass human rights abuses and disregard for international treaties. Sunlight is the best disinfectant and the public deserves to know what has been going on.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “I recently led a parliamentary debate calling on both our governments to conduct an immediate strategic audit of the reach of China’s interests and influence in Scotland. This would be a sensible step they could take to assess how China may be influencing events here in Scotland.”
Detective Chief Superintendent Stuart Houston said: “Officers visited a restaurant on Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow as part of ongoing enquiries. We are continuing to assess all information, in conjunction with local and national partners. At this stage no crimes or offences have been identified.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Ministers regularly engage with a wide variety of people and organisations in Scotland. They added: “We do not comment on national security matters.”
The Chinese Consulate in Edinburgh did not respond to requests to comment. The Ferret attempted to contact Lin via Loon Fung and Sichuan House, but did not receive a response. The GCRC did not respond to requests to comment. The SFCC could not be reached.
Jeremy Corbyn did not respond to our request for comment.
Cover image thanks to Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament.