NEW YORK—The list of organizations and media hoping to sponsor an election debate in New York City includes many politically inclined newspapers, websites, and broadcasters, as well as good government and advocacy groups.
This year, one of the applicants stands out due to its direct connection to the Chinese Communist Party and its open support for John Liu, city Comptroller and mayoral candidate. Open endorsement is a practice that is not allowed by the independent agency tasked with vetting the list.
China Press, or Qiao Bao in Chinese, is a large Chinese-language newspaper in the U.S., which has applied to sponsor a debate for one of the three citywide offices (mayor, comptroller, and public advocate) up for election later this year.
China Press’ sister media is Sinovision. Both sit under the umbrella of the Asian Cultural and Media Group, a conglomerate that has ties with the Chinese Communist Party’s overseas media operations. And both are regularly used as a mouthpiece for Chinese communist officials to communicate with the overseas Chinese community.
In February, the Communist Party’s ambassador in New York, Sun Guoxiong, used these media to extend Chinese New Year greetings. “My dear friends, our motherland is in your thoughts and you are on our minds, too. I hope you will come back to China more often,” he said. “The Chinese Consulate General in New York will continue to provide warm service to all of you.”
The city’s Campaign Finance Board oversees the debate program for the three citywide offices. Bonny Tsang, a spokeswoman for the board, did not indicate whether the board was aware China Press had been identified as being directly controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.
“Those [groups] are just who has applied, we haven’t made our decision yet,” she said. “I can’t say how we’re reviewing the applications. We’re looking at all the applicants thoroughly.”
Debate sponsors choose the venue, and come up with questions to ask the candidates. Part of the criteria for sponsoring a debate is “the applicant’s ability to reach a wide audience and present a fair and impartial debate,” according to debate sponsor guidelines.
Besides needing to be able to present a fair and impartial debate, organizations wishing to sponsor a debate cannot be affiliated with any political party, candidate, or office holder, and cannot endorse any candidate, according to debate rules.
China Press ‘Directly Controlled’ by Communist Party
China Press “represents the voice and views of China’s communist government,” and is “directly controlled” by the regime, according to an article published by the Jamestown Foundation in 2001. Likewise with most other Chinese-language newspapers in the United States.
This means that the millions of Chinese-Americans in America are presented with a distorted view of reality, writes Mei Duzhe, the author, formerly a scientist for the regime and now a teacher in the West. The “outside world” and “current events” are filtered through the media, she said.
Such distortions have led to “strong anti-American sentiments,” especially notable among mainland Chinese persons in the United States, including “startlingly apathetic responses to the September 11 tragedies,” Mei wrote.
China Press and John Liu
John Liu, a presumptive candidate for mayor and the current comptroller, is the only person of Chinese descent in any citywide race.
China Press publishes light coverage of Liu’s initiatives as well as op-eds. An op-ed from last August draws on the rhetoric of “struggle” most commonly found in Chinese communist media.
Titled “Support Chinese in Politics, Have the Correct Attitude to the Political Struggle,” the article said that Liu’s participation in the mayoral race was “extremely important, with enormous influence.”
Liu has encountered troubles, including having a campaign staffer and a key fundraiser charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and attempted wire fraud. Both were investigated by the FBI and their trial begins in April. China Press said the situation looks “like legal problems, but they’re actually political attacks.”
The piece said Chinese people in the United States should “understand the complexity of the political struggle, sharpen their vigilance, be ready to stand firm, and resolutely support John Liu.”
A visit Liu made to the China Press and Sinovision offices in October 2010 was reported with a large red headline: “Thanking for Support, John Liu Again Visits China Press and Sinovision.”
“John Liu expressed thanks to the two media for supporting his comptroller campaign, and for the extensive coverage in the election process,” the article said. “China Press and Sinovision’s reports helped the masses of voters understand election information, and played an important role in active voter participation.”
Liu is photographed with executives at both companies, and signs a miniaturized copy of the newspaper. That paper, run on Aug. 27, 2009, leads the New York edition with the headline: “Give your Vote to John Liu.”