State Department Sanctions Chinese Officials Involved in Malign Foreign Influence Activities

State Department Sanctions Chinese Officials Involved in Malign Foreign Influence Activities
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at a press conference at the State Department in Washington, DC, on Oct. 21, 2020. -(NICHOLAS KAMM/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Cathy He

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Dec. 4 announced visa restrictions on Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials who are involved in malign foreign influence activities.

The State Department may now deny entry to officials in the regime’s United Front Work Department (UFWD) “who have engaged in malign activities to co-opt and coerce those who oppose Beijing’s policies,” Pompeo wrote in a tweet.

The UFWD is charged with overseeing the Party’s foreign influence operations. It coordinates and supports thousands of overseas organizations to spread propaganda, influence local elites, and suppress dissident groups.

“The United Front frequently intimidates members of academia, businesses, civil society groups, and Chinese diaspora communities,” Pompeo said in a statement. Among the tactics used are doxxing (releasing a person’s personal information online) the targets and their family members, he added.

The move is the latest measure by the Trump administration targeting the CCP’s efforts to subvert the United States. The department recently tightened visa rules for CCP members, shortening the maximum duration of their travel visas from 10 years to one month, describing it as a measure to “protect our nation from the CCP’s malign influence.”

The latest visa restrictions apply to Chinese officials, or individuals active in UFWD activities, who have “engaged in the use or threat of physical violence, theft and release of private information, espionage, sabotage, or malicious interference in domestic political affairs, academic freedom, personal privacy, or business activity,” according to Pompeo. This means that people found to meet these criteria may be denied entry into the United States.

These malign activities, Pompeo said, are “intended to co-opt and coerce sub-national leaders, overseas Chinese communities, academia, and other civil society groups both in the United States and other countries in furtherance of the CCP’s authoritarian narratives and policy preferences.”

“The United States calls on the Chinese regime to end its use of coercion and intimidation tactics to suppress freedom of expression,” he added.

David Stilwell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, in October described United Front work as a form of political warfare. An investigation by Newsweek found about 600 groups tied to the UFWD operating in the United States.
In September, an NYPD officer named Baimadajie Angwang was arrested, and accused of spying for the regime. Prosecutors alleged that Angwang fed intelligence about the local Tibetan community to his handler at the Chinese consulate—who was assigned to a UFWD division called the China Association for Preservation and Development of Tibetan Culture.
This year, the State Department has also designated a spate of organizations linked to Beijing as foreign diplomatic missions, a move in recognition their roles as de-facto organs of the CCP.  They have included Chinese state-run media outlets, the Confucius Institute U.S. Center, and a CCP front group controlled by the UFWD.