NEW YORK—In America, the right to vote for the candidate of your choice comes with citizenship. However, for Chinese immigrants, voting feels as if it comes with strings attached to the mainland.
Leaders in New York City’s Chinese communities talk about being forced to support John Liu’s mayoral campaign, despite preferring other candidates.
One local leader, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal, said the strong support for Liu by Chinese-language media that is controlled or influenced by the regime in China has made it dangerous to publicly support another candidate.
Chinese New Yorkers rely heavily on Chinese-language newspapers for news and information. Those papers, with the exception of the Chinese-language edition of The Epoch Times, have given Liu a glowing review—despite Liu’s campaign finances being under federal investigation since 2009.
“If you read the [English-language] media, you would think John Liu has no chance,” the leader said. “But if you read the Chinese media, especially the World Journal, you would think that he [Liu] has almost won the position of mayor.”
The World Journal, based in Taiwan with a New York office, is among the Chinese-language newspapers in the United States that is directly or indirectly controlled by the communist regime in China, according to a report published by the Jamestown Foundation’s China Brief.
On April 4, Liu visited the headquarters of World Journal, shaking hands and snapping photos with the president/CEO, the chief editor, and deputy chief editor. Liu praised World Journal staff for the coverage of a recent mayoral debate and for encouraging their readers to vote for Asian candidates.
Li Fengzhi, a former intelligence officer of the Chinese Communist Party’s Ministry of State Security, said politicians who get high publicity in the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) official media are often those who are close to the regime privately or are nurtured by the regime.
“The CCP doesn’t promote or defame someone for no reason. This is an easy way to tell who the CCP’s friends are,” Li said in a previous interview.
The media’s backing of Liu makes it difficult to speak out, according to Jason Ma, a commentator on China for New Tang Dynasty TV. “If they know John Liu is preferred by the Chinese regime, and if they are inclined to support someone who is not supported by the regime, they may feel they are against the will of the Chinese regime.”
The Chinese community has support systems based on hometowns that date back to when Chinese first immigrated to America. The hometown organizations provided a built-in network of social and business contacts that can help immigrants get jobs, find housing, and deal with acclimatizing to a new homeland.
As these hometown organizations began to focus more on business, the Chinese regime began to tighten its control of them.
“The Chinese regime considers these hometown organizations as their branch to promote their ideology overseas among the Chinese community,” Ma said.
He said many of the leaders in these hometown organizations have business interests back in China. If they support the Chinese regime’s agenda, they receive benefits such as cheaper land, or land in a particular area that is hard to get.
“It is a mutual benefit. You help me to promote my agenda and then I give you this benefit,” Ma said. “If the Chinese government prefers John Liu and you do not support John Liu, then you may have some trouble.”
The trouble could come up in the form of tax problems or problems importing and exporting goods to and from China.
“If they are under any kind of pressure, it is definitely not from the U.S., it is from the outside, from the Chinese regime,” Ma said.
Despite the pressure, another community leader said he expects Liu will lose at the polls “definitively.”
“Even if all the Chinese in New York City endorse him, he does not have the opportunity to win the election,” he said. “In the polls, fundraising, and other aspects he does not qualify.”