A Democratic congresswoman serves on a non-profit which has shared multiple personnel with alleged Chinese intelligence front groups, a Daily Caller News Foundation investigation found.
California Democratic Rep. Judy Chu joined the All America Chinese Youth Federation (AACYF) in 2012 and remains listed as “honorary president” on the 501(c)(3) non-profit’s website, according to a DCNF translation. During Chu’s tenure at AACYF, its leadership has included multiple individuals who’ve belonged to China-based organizations that allegedly operate as front groups for a Chinese intelligence service.
The DCNF located Chu’s Chinese name, Zhao Meixin, within a New York Times article and matched it with AACYF’s records to determine her membership. Chu did not respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
Although it remains unclear what specific responsibilities Chu has as AACYF’s “honorary president,” the congresswoman has led events held by the organization, such as during a November 2013 Silicon Valley tech summit where Chu served as “chairman,” according to a DCNF translation of AACYF’s website.
Five of AACYF’s leaders who’ve served at the non-profit during Chu’s tenure have belonged to organizations allegedly serving a Chinese government agency tasked with overseeing and coordinating CCP influence operations, the DCNF determined. The so-called United Front Work Department (UFWD) has been identified by government agencies, legislative bodies and experts as a central organ of CCP influence efforts, and experts also say UFWD works in concert with Chinese intelligence operatives.
“There is no exact counterpart in the United States for what [the UFWD] does,” Dr. John Lenczowski, former director of European and Soviet Affairs at the National Security Council under President Ronald Reagan, told the DCNF. “There is a strategic integration between the intelligence services and the UFWD in a way that has no parallel between U.S. intelligence, and, say, the National Endowment for Democracy, or even the State Department in its public diplomacy activities.”
“The reality of it is that the Chinese have been conducting a Cold War and we’ve not,” Lenczowski said.
The CCP’s UFWD “cultivates and controls pervasive networks of affiliates around the world” and has thereby secured “unchallenged direction” over large numbers of overseas Chinese “organizations and Chinese-language media, providing infrastructure for corruption, political interference and malign influence,” the 2020 House China Task Force report stated.
“This is what the communists do,” Brandon Weichert, a consultant to the U.S. Air Force, told the DCNF. “They create front organizations in countries that are open societies, like ours, to try to surreptitiously influence events, businesses and leaders in those countries to shape them into acting in accordance with China’s national interest and strategic needs.”
“In many cases, the players involved are sort of useful idiots or willing dupes. In some cases, they’re fellow travelers,” Weichert added.
‘Facts and Reality’
Rep. Chu recently voted against the formation of the House Select Committee tasked with examining, among other things, Chinese influence in the United States. In defense of her vote, Chu claimed that the initiative could lead to anti-Asian violence, according to a statement released by the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), which Chu chairs.
CAPAC did not respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
California Republican Rep. Mike Garcia told the DCNF that Chu’s vote against the formation of the select committee on China ignored “facts and reality.” Garcia told the DCNF that the new committee, which Wisconsin Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher is slated to lead, will “combat the CCP, not the Chinese people.”
“The vast majority of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle supported the creation of this committee,” Garcia said, referring to the resolution which passed 365-65.
The United Front
Chu appears to have served as AACYF’s “honorary president” alongside Chi Honghu, who is listed as an “honorary adviser” on the organization’s website, a role he has held in various forms since at least 2009, according to a DCNF translation.
However, just before joining AACYF, Chi apparently spent the previous decade or so as “director” of the China Overseas Friendship Association (COFA), according to a DCNF translation of COFA’s website and Chinese government records.
In 2018, the U.S.-China Economic Security and Review Commission (USCC) identified the group as a UFWD intelligence operation, referring to it as “the UFWD China Overseas Friendship Association.”
After Rep. Chu’s colleague, Chi, joined AACYF, he was also identified as an “adviser” for the China Overseas Exchange Association (COEA) within a series of Chinese government announcements beginning as early as 2010, according to a DCNF translation, and apparently continued to serve in this capacity until at least 2018.
Several experts on Chinese intelligence operations have identified COEA as a UFWD front group, including Clive Hamilton and Mareike Ohlberg, who characterized COEA as a “UFWD agency” in their 2020 book on Chinese intelligence, “Hidden Hand.”
Chi and AACYF did not respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
‘Directly Subordinate To The UFWD’
Several Chinese government announcements running from 2011 to 2018 also identified another current AACYF “honorary president,” Florence Fang, as having held various positions with COEA, according to a DCNF translation.
Fang formally served as “executive director” of COEA’s 4th Council between 2009 and 2013, the DCNF determined after reviewing Chinese government records and the Florence Fang Family Foundation’s website. The DCNF matched Fang’s Chinese name, Fang Li Bangqin, which is listed on her foundation’s website, with Chinese-language records in order to establish her various roles with COEA.
Fang has served as AACYF’s “honorary president” alongside Rep. Chu since 2012 and has held the position since at least 2006, according to a DCNF translation of an archived version of AACYF’s website. Fang’s tenure at AACYF overlapped with her time as COEA’s “executive director” between 2009 and 2013 and also overlapped with her role as COEA’s “consultant” between 2013 and 2018.
In 2019, Fang also appears to have attended COFA’s 5th Council meeting in Beijing, according to Chinese government records. At the event, Fang appears to have sat just seats away from General Secretary Xi Jinping during a group photo and applauded the communist dictator as he shook hands with other members of the alleged Chinese intelligence front group, footage from Chinese state-run media CCTV revealed.
Fang is also the “founding president” and current “honorary chairman” of the Northern California Association for the Promotion of Peaceful Reunification of China, an organization which opposes Taiwan’s independence, a DCNF translation of her foundation’s website reveals.
The 2018 USCC report identified Fang’s association as one of “33 chapters in the United States” listed on the website of the China Council for the Promotion of Peaceful Reunification (CCPPR), an organization the USCC said is “directly subordinate to the UFWD.”
Fang did not respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
In addition to Chi and Fang, several other AACYF colleagues of Rep. Chu also belong to an alleged UFWD anti-Taiwan independence front group, the DCNF determined.
AACYF’s current “director general,” Zhu Bingfeng, as well as the organization’s “president,” Ren Xiangdong, have belonged to Chu’s organization since at least 2006, DCNF translations of AACYF’s website determined.
Yet, both Zhu and Ren apparently also hold leadership roles at the American Chinese Youth Federation for the Peaceful Reunification of China, according to DCNF translations of the websites of AACYF and the alleged UFWD front group CCPPR.
As with Fang’s anti-Taiwan independence organization, Zhu and Ren’s organization is also listed as one of the “33 chapters in the United States” that the 2018 USCC report identified as belonging to CCPPR.
Zhu and Ren did not respond immediately to the DCNF’s request for comment.
AACYF has also interacted with and supported several UFWD front groups during Rep. Chu’s tenure at the non-profit, the DCNF discovered.
Just months after Chu became an “honorary president” at AACYF in October 2012, the group began advertising a recruitment drive on behalf of the “Thousand Talents Plan” in March 2013, according to an archived version of the Chinese-language website.
The Thousand Talents Plan is a Chinese government program originally designed to recruit “high-quality overseas experts” and allegedly incentivize them to transfer U.S. intellectual property to China, according to Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman, ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
An archived version of the Thousand Talents Plan’s website states the program is managed by the Western Returned Scholars Association, which is a UFWD front group, according to the USCC. The Thousand Talents Plan is also a means of economic espionage, FBI Director Christopher Wray said during a 2020 event held at the Washington, D.C., Hudson Institute concerning Chinese government influence operations.
“Perhaps Representative Chu’s concerns and those of like-minded colleagues would be eased by spending more time engaging those constituents and less associating with groups linked to the United Front Work Department of the Chinese Communist Party,” Steve Yates, a former Chinese language analyst for the National Security Agency, told the DCNF.
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Daily Caller News Foundation investigative reporter, political journalist, and China watcher. Twitter: @LenczyckiPhilip
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