As a prominent China critic and advocate of Hong Kong’s freedoms, Benedict Rogers is used to unwanted attention. But even he was surprised when he found out that the Chinese Embassy in London had attempted to persuade members of the British Parliament to warn him off.

The episode occurred in 2017 when Rogers was deputy chair of the ruling Conservative Party’s human rights commission, which he co-founded. According to three separate people familiar with the events, the embassy lobbied Conservative MPs to try and convince Rogers, who is not a lawmaker, to "shut up” about China.

His experiences are among the incidents revealed in interviews with MPs, diplomats, party officials and security sources that help explain the U.K.’s souring relations with Beijing, and show how far China is prepared to go to try and influence the narrative. Many asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of their interactions with Chinese diplomats.