The fear of someone informing on them to the Chinese Communist Party, and of the possible harm inflicted on family members in China, is so powerful and pervasive that some members of the Chinese-American community are ill-inclined even to speak to their elected representatives at public events, according to Michigan State Sen. Jim Runestad.
“The number one problem we have in this nation, I believe, in the future is going to be the Chinese communist government,” Runestad told EpochTV’s “China Insider” program at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, on Feb. 25.
“They’re openly recruiting spies in the United States, and our own government seems not to care.”
Runestad, a Republican representing Michigan’s 15th district in the state senate, said that after taking office in January 2019, he began to make a strong effort to build ties with the Chinese-American community in his constituency by attending public meetings and gatherings. It quickly became apparent that some of the Chinese-Americans who attended the events were terrified that someone might see them interacting with a politician and might report on them to Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials. As a result, their family members in China might then be subject to intimidation, harassment, and detention.
Runestad described how at meetings he attended before the pandemic shut down most public gatherings, a Chinese-American constituent would walk up to him and ask Runestad to avoid looking at him or her, and to pretend that they were not really talking. The person who had approached the senator said another member of the Chinese community—who was sometimes also in the same room—had approached them, claiming to know the names and addresses of their relatives in China, and attempted to recruit the person to start helping the Chinese regime.
“In one case, this lady [who approached me at an event] was a recent Chinese immigrant engineer, and she was literally almost in tears, and her hands were shaking. She was so scared that somebody was going to take a picture of her, and that her family was going to get in trouble at home,” Runestad recalled.
While Runestad’s constituency includes large numbers of people from the Indian, Nepalese, and Korean communities in Michigan, such concerns about possible espionage and informing were not evident in those groups. Yet such incidents involving constituents expressing fear about CCP harassment have happened “about a dozen times” with members of the Chinese community, the state senator noted.
“So it’s an organized effort that is happening in Michigan, and is probably happening everywhere in the nation,” he said.
Runestad said he contacted the FBI about the harassment and spying reported to him, only to be asked whether he had reported these matters to the police.
“I said, no, the local police can’t break up an international spy ring. They write tickets and handle breaking and entering, that type of thing. So I was very disappointed in the response,” Runestad recounted.
Runestad said he was at a loss to understand the long-running assumption of both Republicans and Democrats that Beijing would “play fair with the West.” Over the past few decades, there was a widespread belief in the West that opening trade with China and inviting it into the international community would foster greater political freedoms in the communist state.
“That has not happened,” he said. “In fact, I think it’s even gotten worse. You look at what’s happening, as different minorities who voice opposing opinions vanish.”
In Runestad’s view, the United States’ ongoing failure to recognize the nature of the Chinese regime is a “major problem.”
On the issue of the CCP’s harassment and espionage efforts in the country, state government officials who learn of such incidents should contact the FBI, whose job is to investigate such matters, he said.
The Epoch Times has reached out to the FBI for comment.