THE right-wing British think tank the Henry Jackson Society, which is being paid around £10,000 a month by Japan to wage a propaganda war against China, is being probed over its charitable status.

The rules involving charities campaigning politically are rigid. They can only undertake political activity in support of their charitable purposes. The Charities Commission is now examining whether the society has breached the strict rules.

A spokeswoman said the Commission contacted the think tank to determine whether there “is a regulatory role for them”. She stressed, however, that “we are not formally investigating the charity”.

A formal investigation can involve removing trustees and taking over the charities' bank accounts.

The Henry Jackson Society (HJS) ran regular seminars inside the UK Parliament until, just over two years ago, it pulled out after refusing to give the parliamentary standards commissioner details of business donors who had given it over £5,000 in a year. It had been funding two parliamentary groups which focused on homeland and international security, providing office and staff to run them.

It has also encouraged politicians – including former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind – to voice opposition to Chinese foreign policy.

The most high-profile intervention was an article ‘written’ by Rifkind in the Daily Telegraph last August, entitled How China could switch off the lights in a crisis if we let them build Hinckley C. The article was actually written by HSJ staffers.

Rifkind admits that the article was “provided” by the society but says that they should have told him that they were being funded by Japan.

The HJS responded that they “approached Sir Malcolm Rifkind who generously agreed to work with us in the drafting of this article which appeared under his name. He proposed a number of amendments to the initial draft which we had prepared to ensure that he was in agreement with its contents. We would like to apologise to Sir Malcolm for our failure to fully inform him of all the circumstances relevant to the preparation of this article”.

The article stressed how Britain had to have national security interests "firmly in mind" when doing business with the Chinese, citing several alleged examples of industrial espionage.

However, in 2015 a joint Telegraph and Dispatches sting, using hidden cameras, captured Rifkind telling undercover reporters of his interest in representing Chinese business interests. A figure of £5,000 a day for his services was mentioned. He was subsequently forced to stand down as an MP.

The HJS, which is run by Alan Mendoza, an unsuccessful Tory candidate at the 2015 general election, is paid £88,512. According to its latest return to the Charities Commission for 2015, the society’s income was £1,107,191, of which almost 70 per cent – £672,662 – went in staff costs.

The HJS, like all charities, is not required publicly to list its donors or to provide them to the Commission – unlike political parties which must declare all donations over £5,000 to the Electoral Commission. It can also accept money from abroad, either from individuals, businesses or political parties.

When asked why there was no financial scrutiny – and whether that could mean that cash from organised crime or disreputable sources could be given to a charity without oversight – the spokeswoman said that it was up to the responsible trustees to ensure fiscal probity.

The present trustees include Tory MP Damien Collins and Labour's Gisela Stuart. Michael Gove is a former trustee.

The society has also been accused of being anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim. It's associate director Douglas Murray complained in 2013 that London had "become a foreign country" because white Britons were a minority in 23 of 33 London boroughs. He has also been pictured with Robert Spencer, the far-right US campaigner who is the director of Jihad Watch.

In 2012 the society's then-director William Shawcross said: "Europe and Islam is one of the greatest, most terrifying problems of our future". Later that year Shawcross was appointed to chair the Charities Commission, where he remains.