Overseas “service centers” set up in seven U.S. cities by a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) intelligence arm have hosted cultural events featuring pro-CCP propaganda and performers tied to China’s government and military, according to Chinese government records and state-run media reports reviewed by the Daily Caller News Foundation.
The CCP’s United Front Work Department (UFWD) runs “Overseas Chinese Service Center” (OCSC) branches that operate out of U.S.-based nonprofits in seven U.S. cities, a recent DCNF investigation found. OCSCs were ostensibly set up to assist with official government duties, like reviewing passport applications, but they also host cultural events that often feature pro-CCP songs and performers tied to China’s military and propaganda departments, according to Chinese government records and state-run media reports.
Members of the U.S. Congress have attended these propaganda-filled cultural events, according to Chinese state-media reports and photos.
“These activities offer a perfect platform for the CCP to invite elected officials, whom they can then influence into endorsing the CCP’s narrative, and, in turn, influence broad masses of people,” Scott McGregor, a former Canadian military intelligence officer, told the DCNF.
The DCNF previously identified OCSC branches operating in San Francisco, California; St. Paul, Minnesota; St. Louis, Missouri; Omaha, Nebraska; Charlotte, North Carolina; Houston, Texas and Salt Lake City, Utah. The DCNF also reported that, during a 2018 trip to China, OCSC representatives met with officials from the Ministry of Public Security (MPS), which is China’s national police authority.
Republican Senators have asked the FBI and Justice Department to investigate the OCSCs. Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey recently opened an investigation into the St. Louis OCSC, which he called a “possible CCP outpost.”
Jan. 2018 – Officials from all 7 #CCP intel-linked Overseas Chinese Service Centers in the U.S. visited a police station in China's Zhejiang province & met w/ Ministry of Public Security officers to learn about international law enforcement @DailyCaller pic.twitter.com/3TnGqRnP0v
— Philip Lenczycki 蔡岳 (@LenczyckiPhilip) July 12, 2023
‘China Is Back’
Between 2014 and 2017, the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office established 60 OCSCs around the world, including seven branches in U.S. cities, the DCNF previously reported.
The Overseas Chinese Affairs Office was under control of the CCP’s State Council until 2018 when it became part of UFWD, according to Chinese government documents and reports from China experts. The U.S.-China Economic Security and Review Commission, a federal entity, characterizes the UFWD as the CCP organ “responsible for coordinating [foreign and domestic] influence operations” as well as a “Chinese intelligence service.”
“United Front work is Beijing’s effort to enlist the Chinese diaspora and sympathetic residents of other countries to create sympathy for, and support of, the CCP’s goals,” Dr. June Tuefel Dreyer, former commissioner of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, told the DCNF.
OCSC branches perform a variety of duties in support of China’s foreign ministry, ranging from processing Chinese passport and travel permit applications to so-called “consular protection” activities, the DCNF previously reported. However, OCSCs also regularly host Chinese cultural events, many of which have featured pro-CCP propaganda, according to a DCNF review of dozens of events.
OCSC-hosted cultural events — which include Lunar New Year, Mid-Autumn Festival and other Chinese national celebrations — often present traditional Chinese music and dance alongside pro-CCP propaganda songs.
For instance, the Salt Lake City OCSC held a 2022 Mid-Autumn Festival livestream event featuring lion dancers and traditional instrumental songs, according to its website. Performers at the event also sang and danced to “My People, My Country,” one of 100 songs selected by the CCP Propaganda Department to commemorate communist China’s 70th anniversary, according to the state-run People’s Daily.
In a 2020 speech, Chinese President Xi Jinping called the song part of a “surging current that sings an ode to New China and inspires us to work harder in the new era, filling us with boundless energy.”
In 2018, the Salt Lake City OCSC hosted a Lunar New Year event that included ethnic dance routines, martial artists and performers singing patriotic tunes, like “Love My China,” which was also on the Propaganda Department’s list.
The OCSC in St. Paul, Minnesota helped organize a 2019 event celebrating the founding of communist China and the establishing of U.S.-China diplomatic relations, according to a report from the nonprofit Alliance of Minnesota Chinese Organizations (AMCO). The All-China Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese is also listed as a co-organizer for the event. The All-China Federation is part of the CCP’s united front, according to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.
In addition to performances featuring acrobats and traditional Chinese instruments, a performer at the St. Paul event also sang “Ode To The Motherland,” another CCP Propaganda Department-approved song, according to People’s Daily. The state-run China News Service has called the song communist China’s second national anthem.
The song’s author boasted to Chinese state-controlled media that his lyrics depict “the power of justice, a blood vow to resist the shame of national subjugation roared in the middle of battle.”
Although they did not appear to attend the event, AMCO reports that Minnesota Democratic politicians Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Rep. Dean Phillips and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey all wrote letters praising the celebration.
Klobuchar, Phillips and Frey did not respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
Service centers have also hosted events that included performances from art troupes affiliated with Chinese government propaganda departments, according to multiple Chinese state-run media reports.
In 2018, the Omaha OCSC sponsored a Lunar New Year celebration that featured Chinese opera performers from the state-owned Jiangsu Provincial Theatrical Troupe, according to Qiaowang, which is the news and propaganda arm of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office.
The Jiangsu theatrical troupe operates under the direction of the Jiangsu Propaganda Department, according to Chinese government documents.
The St. Paul OCSC and the Chongqing Propaganda Department have co-sponsored multiple events at the Mall of America in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area, including events in 2019 and 2022, according to AMCO and Sohu.com. The 2022 event featured a performance from a dragon dance troupe managed by the Chongqing Propaganda Department, according to Sohu.com.
These performances came after the CCP Propaganda Department minister from Chongqing traveled to Minnesota in 2018 to sign a “mutual cooperation” agreement with the Mall of America and the St. Paul OCSC, according to the nonprofit AMCO. The details of the agreement are unknown.
In 2019, a vice president for Triple Five Group, which owns and operates the Mall of America, wrote a letter — which was posted on AMCO’s website — thanking the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office, the head of the Chinese consulate in Chicago and several Chinese provincial government entities for their “firm support” of the mall’s Chinese New Year performances that year.
Neither the Mall of America nor the Triple Five Group responded to multiple requests for comment.
A Chinese Military Saxophonist Jams Out To U.S. Pop Songs
OCSC branches have also co-hosted performances with a related Overseas Chinese Affairs Office program called the Star Art Troupe.
Launched in 2014, the Star Art Troupe theatrical program is the “cultural flagship” of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office and aims to “meet the cultural needs of overseas Chinese” while providing a “window for foreigners to understand China,” according to the office’s website.
Chinese government and state-run media reports detail how, between 2014 and 2017, the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office established seven Star Art Troupes in Boston, Chicago, Houston, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle and St. Paul.
U.S. OCSC have co-hosted events with Star Art Troupes, according to multiple Chinese state-run media reports. Some of these events featured performers from the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Academy of Art. The PLA is the Chinese military.
In October 2019, for instance, St. Paul’s OCSC and the local Star Art Troupe co-hosted an event commemorating the founding of communist China, according to AMCO. The event included a singer and musician from the PLA’s Academy of Art, according to Sohu.com.
American elected officials have attended cultural events hosted by U.S. Overseas Chinese Service Centers that feature performers backed by #CCP Propaganda Department and/or from the People's Liberation Army's Academy of Art, etc.@DailyCaller pic.twitter.com/eC9NOmZg5M
— Philip Lenczycki 蔡岳 (@LenczyckiPhilip) July 12, 2023
Similarly, Houston’s Star Art Troupe also included a dancer who attended the PLA’s Academy of Art, according to the Oriental Arts Education Center (OAEC), though it’s unclear if the dancer remains at the center. OAEC, which hosts the art troupe, has co-hosted events Houston’s Chinese Civic Center, which houses the Houston OCSC.
In September 2015, Houston’s Chinese Civic Center sold tickets for a public event in Stafford, Texas, celebrating communist China’s founding that was co-hosted by Houston’s Star Art Troupe, according to the local Chinese Student Association. During the event, the lead saxophonist for the PLA’s Central Military Band played the pop hit “My Heart Will Go On,” the association reported.
That same month, the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office invited the head of Houston’s Star Art Troupe to come to China to attend a military parade at Tiananmen Square commemorating the defeat of Imperial Japan, according to OAEC.
While in Beijing, the head of Houston’s Star Art Troupe met with the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office’s chief propagandist to discuss “how the modern mission of overseas cultural disseminators is to use cultural confidence to demonstrate Chinese people’s profound heritage and love of peace in order to defend the peaceful image of China,” according to OAEC.
OAEC did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
“Americans should be very wary of cultural events hosted by organizations affiliated with the UFWD — and especially the MPS — because they are used to covertly hide the CCP’s true intent,” Ina Mitchell, Canadian investigative reporter and co-author of “The Mosaic Effect,” told the DCNF.
The DCNF reached out to all seven nonprofits housing OCSCs by email and phone. Only two of the nonprofits responded.
The Nebraska Chinese Association, which houses the Omaha OCSC, claimed its cultural events “strive to cultivate understandings between Chinese and American culture” and denied any relationship with the Chinese government.
A man who identified himself as a “founding member” of the Charlotte “Chinese service center” told the DCNF by phone that his organization was “not related to any government agency.” He directed the DCNF to review the group’s website.
‘Feel Good Sentiments’
Several members of Congress have attended OCSC-sponsored cultural events, according to multiple Chinese state-run media reports.
In January 2023, St. Paul’s OCSC co-hosted another Lunar New Year event at the Mall of America. During the event, Minnesota Democratic Sen. Tina Smith delivered a speech praising her state for welcoming immigrants, the CCP-controlled Qiaowang and CBS News reported.
Smith’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Sen. Klobuchar also gave a video speech thanking an OCSC representative for promoting “the cultural heritage of Chinese Americans,” according to AMCO’s YouTube channel.
Performers at the January 2023 event sang the CCP Propaganda Department-approved song “Why Are The Flowers So Red?” The song’s lyrics celebrate “the heroic frontier guards in Northwest China’s Xinjiang,” according to the PLA’s English website.
The song’s lyrics include the line: “Why are the flowers so red? They’re watered with the blood of youth.”
Rep. Phillips has also attended St. Paul OCSC co-sponsored by the Chongqing Propaganda Department, according to multiple reports.
In September 2022, Phillips attended the St. Paul OCSC’s Mid-Autumn Festival event at the Mall of America, according to iChongqing, a Chinese state-run media outlet. During the event, Phillips, the head of China’s Chicago consulate and St. Paul OCSC members painted eyes on a large dragon puppet, which was then used in a performance by a dragon dance troupe managed by the Chongqing Propaganda Department, photos from a state-run media outlet show.
2018 – @mallofamerica apparently inked deal w/ a #CCP Propaganda Department & intel-linked St. Paul Overseas Chinese Service Center to host cultural events@RepDeanPhillips & other Minnesota lawmakers have since attended Mall of America's CCP-backed shows@DailyCaller pic.twitter.com/vnZKHJIYaE
— Philip Lenczycki 蔡岳 (@LenczyckiPhilip) July 12, 2023
“Cultural events create feel good sentiments — ‘how could a civilization that produced such fantastic dance, musical performances, acrobats, cuisine possibly have militant intentions?’” Dr. Dreyer told the DCNF.
Nebraska Republican Rep. Don Bacon has also attended events hosted by the Omaha OCSC, including a 2018 Lunar New Year event that featured the state-controlled Jiangsu Provincial Theatrical Troupe, according to Qiaowang.
Bacon’s spokesperson told the DCNF that individuals from the Nebraska Chinese Association “cherish their Chinese heritage” and “have a deep disdain for the Communist government and have expressed love and patriotism for the United States.” Bacon’s spokesperson added that local law enforcement had never “highlighted any concerns to us in the past” about the organization.
However, after the DCNF reported on the Omaha OCSC’s connection to the CCP’s United Front, Bacon said he contacted the FBI about the service center.
“Allegations that the Chinese Communist Government is operating an illegal organization to monitor and intimidate Chinese students and visitors in Omaha are obviously very alarming and we want answers from the FBI,” Bacon said.
In 2022, the U.S. National Counterintelligence and Security Center warned that CCP influence operations in the U.S. have now placed state and local officials “on the “front lines of national security.” While these operations may vary in their execution, ultimately, they all aim to coopt American lawmakers as Beijing’s proxies, whether wittingly or unwittingly, DNI cautioned.
“These associations have been bridges that Americans naively saw as just cultural and mutually beneficial,” Steve Yates, former deputy national security adviser to former vice president Dick Cheney, told the DCNF. “The CCP has always used every organization as a vehicle to monitor, and, in many cases, control their ethnic affiliates and through them the influencers in the communities in which their ethnic compatriots reside.”
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