U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned U.S. state and local politicians on Wednesday to be wary of Chinese diplomats, who he said may be trying to woo them as part of Chinese propaganda and espionage. He also called for more cooperation with Taiwan.
Speaking at the Wisconsin State Capitol, Pompeo said the State Department was reviewing the activities of the U.S.-China Friendship Association and the China Council for Promotion of Peace Unification because of suspicions they were trying to influence U.S. schools, business groups and local politicians.
He said the two groups have ties to the United Front Work Department of the CPC Central Committee.
“You know, when Chinese diplomats approach you, it’s probably not in the spirit of cooperation or friendship,” Mr. Pompeo said, warning that the Communist Party’s “influence and espionage” had penetrated even to the city level.
“The federal government cannot regulate every one of these predatory and compulsive behaviors. We need your help… Protecting The interests of the United States requires vigilance, and that vigilance begins with you, with all state legislators, regardless of party, “he said.
Mr Pompeo warned That Beijing was trying to avoid roadblocks erected by Washington at the federal level. He told state legislators in Madison, Wisconsin, that proposals from Chinese diplomats, Chinese nationals or “interested Americans with links to [the Chinese Communist Party]” were often part of a plot “in Beijing’s authoritarian form”.
The top U.S. diplomat cited an official at the Chinese consulate in Chicago who pleaded with Wisconsin Senate President Roger Roth this year for his House to pass a resolution praising China’s handling of the coVID-19 outbreak as an example of attracting state-level officials.
These efforts, he says, are “a more sinister vision of engagement” than moves by other countries, such as France’s Alliance of language and culture schools, to boost their image abroad.
It is the latest attack on China ahead of the US election in November, when President Donald Trump has made a tough approach to China a key foreign policy platform. Wisconsin is a key swing state in the polls.
Mr. Pompeo’s speech prompted an outcry from Democratic lawmakers, who accused him of using taxpayer money to shore up political support for Mr. Trump and possibly for himself, given his widely held presidential ambitions in 2024.
The United States accuses China of deliberately delaying a warning to the world about novel Coronavirus, further aggravating tensions between the two countries. The trade war launched by U.S. President Donald Trump more than two years ago has already damaged relations between the two countries.
In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, Mr Trump raised tensions further by making China’s culpability over coVID-19 a key theme. Novel Coronavirus has caused the deaths of more than 200,000 Americans.
Pompeo also cited the case of a New York City police officer accused of acting as a Chinese agent as an example of China undermining U.S. interests.
On Monday, the federal government unsealed the indictment against Baimadajie Angwang, a naturalized American citizen. He is accused of spying on fellow Tibetans in New York.
Mr Pompeo called on Wisconsin lawmakers to take a range of measures to curb Chinese influence, including “legislation to build closer partnerships with federal agencies on [intellectual property] protection, investment screening and reverse osmosis operations”.
After welcoming local representatives from Chicago’s Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, Pompeo also asked lawmakers to “ignore the threat from the Chinese Communist Party and encourage mayors and businessmen to engage with a free and democratic Taiwan.”