How was a Chinese consulate letter to a Wisconsin state senator a blatant attempt to subvert US democracy?
And why does Wisconsin State Senator Roger Roth recommend lawmakers publicly call out the Chinese Communist Party, while at the same time standing in solidarity with the Chinese people?
In this episode, we sit down with Sen. Roger Roth, President of the Wisconsin State Senate and an Iraqi war veteran.
This is American Thought Leaders 🇺🇸, and I’m Jan Jekielek.
Jan Jekielek: Senator Roger Roth, such a pleasure to have you on American Thought Leaders.
Senator Roger Roth: Glad to be with you today.
Mr. Jekielek: Not too long ago, you received a very curious email from the Chinese Consulate in Chicago. It talked about a resolution that the Wisconsin State Senate should adopt, talking about how transparent and quick in sharing of key information China has been sharing with the international community and WHO. Some of our viewers have already heard about this, but I’m wondering if you could tell me exactly what happened. You got this note. What happened?
Sen. Roth: So on February 26, the consulate first reached out to me, and they said that they would like me to pass a resolution on the floor of the Wisconsin Senate. What was probably most unusual about the request was that they provided me with the resolution. I’ve never had something like this happen. They wanted more or less to praise the Communist Party of China for their handling of the coronavirus. When I looked at the email, I saw that it had a hotmail address. I immediately thought that this had to be a hoax, so I discarded it. About a week and a half later, they reached out to me again, and it said, “hey, we are just following up on our first email that we had sent you and wondering if you would be able to pass this resolution on the floor of the Senate.”
At this point I told my staff, just go do some legwork, see if we can validate this email address. So they went ahead and they did that and towards the third week in March, we finally got confirmation that this was, in fact, a legitimate email from the Chinese Consulate. In fact, it was told to us through the channels that we went through that the communist Chinese routinely use private email with their embassy traffic here in the United States, because their official channels are too slow.
Now in the third week of March, I recognized that this in fact was legitimate. The Communist Party of China reached out to me on two occasions to pass a resolution praising them for their handling of the coronavirus, at the very time that this virus is spreading in the United States, starting on the coast, in the West, in the east, and working its way in. By this time in Wisconsin, we are on lockdown. Only essential businesses [are allowed to function]. Most people are asked to stay home and stay indoors.
So all these emotions are running through me, and to be honest with you, I got downright mad. That’s what I told my staff. I dictated to them a response. I said, you send this out word for word, “Dear Consul General, Nuts. Respectfully, Senator Roger Roth,” and that’s what they sent out. I stand by that because I never before had a foreign government try and subvert our democratic process here and get us to pass misinformation. Never before have I seen that happen on such a brazen level.
Mr. Jekielek: That is very interesting. First, I would love to understand exactly what you meant by “nuts.” I’m sure they didn’t understand it initially, but you hit the nail on the head. There’s some sort of subversion of democracy happening here. Can you dig into that before we kind of go further into this resolution?
Sen. Roth: Yeah, absolutely. You see right now, the Communist Party of China, have their tentacles everywhere in our world. They have it in our business community, they have it in academia, they have it in government, and they’re flexing those muscles now to change a narrative. It is a very disturbing narrative in their handling of this coronavirus, and they’re flexing that to try to change and shape world public opinion about them.
That is why they reached out to me, but the danger here is that they absolutely are subverting or attempting to subvert a democratic process. We’re the people of Wisconsin. We elect as a whole here our legislators and our state senators to rule in our state legislature. The idea that we would allow a foreign government, like the Communist Party of China, to have influence over what we pass in the sovereign state of Wisconsin, is extremely troubling. I think people, not just in the United States, but around the world should be alarmed at the efforts in the ends that the Communist Party of China is going through to try and infiltrate and subvert what we do here in our country, all so that they can gain legitimacy on their end.
Mr. Jekielek: Here at the Epoch Times, we’ve definitely felt the effects of some of that kind of outreach from the Chinese Communist Party over the last 20 years. We are no strangers to exactly what you’re talking about. But this is also really interesting. This whole coronavirus situation, as folks say on the show, is like this alarm bell that is showing and exposing this type of activity. Have you ever gotten a note of this nature from any foreign mission before?
Sen. Roth: From time to time, you will have the foreign consulates who will reach out. A lot of the big nations have consulates around the United States, including in Chicago, which is just south of where we are. I have absolutely had other governments, when they’re in town, want to say hi, and want to tell me about what they’re working on and what their government is up to. I have never had a foreign consulate present me with something that they wanted me to pass on the floor of the sovereign Wisconsin State Senate. Never. To me, the most shocking of this was just the brazen nature. Here is probably the part that should scare most of us: they actually felt it was okay for them to do this.
So it makes you wonder, am I the first one that they’ve reached out to ask for a resolution to be passed, or to ask for a public statement to be made on their behalf, or a social media post to be sent out there? I find it hard to believe that I would be. So the fact that they felt that it was okay for them to do this and not out of normal, I think, is the scariest part for me. This is why I was so determined, after I worked through the stages of anger, to turn this into a real opportunity, and that was to present, what I believe to be a factual resolution that strips naked the aggression in the human rights abuses of the Communist Party of China for the world to see, because we see what they’ve done with the coronavirus. Now is the opportunity for the free world to unite in opposition to the CCP and in support of the real freedom-loving peoples of mainland China.
Mr. Jekielek: I’m actually excited to dig into your resolution because I think it covers a lot of very important ground. But before I go there, why do you think they reached out to you?
Sen. Roth: That’s a great question. I’ve asked myself that, and of course many people have asked me that. The only thing I can think of is that if you go to the Wisconsin State Senate homepage, I’m the first person you see as the President of the Senate. I’m the first photograph, first contact information. They must have thought, well, this is where we go to get this done. But again, to me, it’s downright scary that they even made that request in the first place, because I’ve had no contact with the CCP. I’ve never traveled to China. I’ve never spoken to their consulate before. So that’s why it makes this request very unusual and very scary that they felt that this was normal behavior for a foreign government to come to a sovereign state like Wisconsin and ask them to pass this resolution.
Mr. Jekielek: Are you aware of any other legislator, state, federal or otherwise, being reached out to in this manner?
Sen. Roth: I do know that Secretary Pompeo gave a speech in February, and I only know this in the aftereffects of everything that I had gone through. He was speaking at the National Governors Association, and he was more or less telling them that the Communist Party of China is going to be looking to flex their muscles and influence behavior in the United States. I came across that after the fact, but once I had seen that, and he had gone through and shared with some examples of how they had done things in other states, it made total sense. That being said, this is the first instance that I am aware of where they actually handed a sovereign legislative body a resolution that they wanted passed.
Mr. Jekielek: Fascinating. So what is the status of the resolution now?
Sen. Roth: So I introduced the resolution in the Senate. We are in the middle of this battle here against the coronavirus, so the Senate met last week in a virtual session solely to take up legislation dealing with the coronavirus. We absolutely will be coming back, convening our Senate in our Senate Chamber at some point when the conditions on the ground improve. Whether that’s late May or June sometime, we’ll be coming back, and that’s the time that I’ll be making the push here to pass this resolution in solidarity with the Chinese people. I’ve gotten very good feedback from a number of my colleagues who are very supportive of what we are doing.
Mr. Jekielek: So let’s jump into your resolution now. As far as I can tell, it is attempting to comprehensively discuss the reality of what the Chinese Communist Party has inflicted on China and frankly now the world. Tell me about the resolution.
Sen. Roth: I came in going through all that anger over a weekend, and I approached my staff at the beginning of the next week. I said, this is what we’re going to do, we’re going to put out a resolution. It’s just not the one that the CCP wants, but we’re going to put out a resolution that walks the fine line between supporting the good Chinese people, and yet at the same time, calling out for what it is the aggressions of the Communist Party of China. I think you’ll see that play out from the beginning to the end here. I talk about, and I really do believe this, the Chinese people are heirs to a great civilization spanning thousands of years of human history. They’ve just been held hostage these last 70 years by the Communist Party of China.
I told my staff, I want to put together a resolution that highlights some of these because, maybe it’s different where you are, but if we go out on the street in Madison, Wisconsin, and we asked somebody about the Communist Party of China, if we just said this: do believe that somewhere in the world, there are a million and a half Uyghur Muslims who are in concentration camps? Just left it at that, didn’t put a geographic name to it. Most people would say, “that’s impossible. Concentration camps were something back in World War II. That doesn’t exist today.” Except that it does.
And I don’t think most people understand the atrocities that have been allowed to happen under the CCP. When it comes to the one-child-policy, forced sterilizations, organ harvesting and the religious liberties that they infringe upon. We know that Mainland China exists and they have that government, but we don’t directly tie these things to them, and I wanted to allow this to be an opportunity where we spell that out. So you will see that in our resolution. We declare those.
And then at the same time, I wanted this resolution to speak truth to the lies that the CCP is spreading around the world about what actually happened with the spread of the coronavirus. You see us do that too. Kind of laying from the beginning of the process, their cover-up, how they went and imprisoned scientists who dared speak the truth, how they destroyed samples, how they lied to the world, to the WHO, to the United States, and really allowed this thing to grow into something that, in the very end, we can’t control anymore, and we’re just reacting to on a worldwide level.
Mr. Jekielek: Now, you mention in here that the Chinese Communist Party deliberately and intentionally misled the world about the outbreak in Wuhan. The deliberate part I’m most curious about. What do you mean exactly?
Sen. Roth: Well, we know that the Chinese government knew about this in the middle of November, and by early December, they knew that there was human-to-human transmission. Yet publicly they were saying there wasn’t, and that you can only get this from an animal, even though they knew that there was human-to-human transmission. Their deliberateness of what they did was when they destroyed samples of the virus. What they should have done is allowed researchers in the United States and other parts of the world access to that, so we could not only use it to help determine and predict mapping of how it would spread, but also start working on finding a vaccine to it.
But from the moment they found out about this, until it was too late, they lied to the world. They lied to their own people, they lied to the World Health Organization, and they lied to the world. We are hearing, this might be a thing of the future. We’re so blessed, you and I and everyone listening now, that for the most part of our lives, we’ve lived in a world absent of these kind of pandemics. Science and technology, we’ve been able to harness and control these, but they’re saying this might be the future. If that’s true, then now more than ever, we need to hold the Communist Party of China, and the World Health Organization accountable for their handling of this to make sure that the next time this happens, if it does, we don’t find ourselves in the same predicament.
Mr. Jekielek: You are mentioning the WHO here. Of course, there’s been a lot of criticism. The President has recently said he’s defunding it and pending investigation of its role in all of this. So you think the WHO is somehow complicit? Is that what I’m hearing?
Sen. Roth: I absolutely think that they’re complicit in what’s happening here. We don’t have the full scope of the details, but I think many of the things that are reported in the mainstream media, even today, you would acknowledge that there was a cozy relationship between the CCP and the World Health Organization. There were 500 people dying a day in Italy and they’re still aren’t declaring this a world pandemic until the middle of March. I believe that was all coming from pressure from China to try and minimize what this was. The sad truth is that if the CCP had been forthright and honest from the beginning, they might be afraid of what public opinion the world is towards them, but the truth is that we would have stood ready to come in immediately and help them with this. We would have sent in the necessary scientists, supplies, what have you, to make sure that this didn’t spread outside of the Wuhan province of China, or in China at large.
You’ll see in the resolution that they wanted me to pass saying, “oh, we created a window of opportunity for the world to react.” Nonsense. But by doing the lying, the deliberate lying and misinformation, all they did was create a window of opportunity for the coronavirus to spread in such force around the world that by the time governments realized what we were facing, it was too late to respond in a way that wouldn’t jeopardize the lives of our citizens and their health.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, if they would have had to admit there was a problem, perhaps the Chinese Communist Party might be held accountable?
Sen. Roth: Absolutely. Yeah, I think you’re right about that. But you know what? They’re going to be held accountable now. Both the CCP and the World Health Organization are going to be accountable. I’m actually a little encouraged when, again, what happened to me is they’ve sort of tried to manipulate my office for their gains here and I’ve seen now not only what they’re capable of and what they’ve tried to do around the world. I think you do see governments around the world pushing back. You see in Germany, you see in Great Britain, and even here in the United States, with hearings now they’re going to happen in the halls of Congress that we are absolutely pushing back, and they will be held accountable as they should be.
Mr. Jekielek: So what are you hearing from your colleagues? You’ve reached out, presumably, to your colleagues in the Senate, even though you’re not in session around these issues. What are you hearing? Is there bipartisan interest in the resolution? What’s the situation?
Sen. Roth: I think it is yet to be determined if there is bipartisan support for it. I think in the end, there will be, but I can definitely tell you on the Republican side of the aisle, that my members have reached out to me and told me that they absolutely and enthusiastically support the resolution, because they’re hearing it from their own people. This isn’t lost on them that something happened here and as we look in our response to this, our number one priority right now is keeping our people safe, so it’s working with our health departments and our healthcare systems. Emergency Management in the state of Wisconsin is doing the right things to make sure that the people of Wisconsin are safe, but when we move through this and this passes, as surely it will, that will be the time when we reassess what we’re doing and we hold people accountable and determine where blame lies.
I represent a district in Northeast Wisconsin, about 177,000 people, and many of them have lost their jobs, and some of them have even died from the coronavirus. We have got people who are infected by it and having to quarantine at their home. Schools have been shut down. Seniors aren’t going to be able to graduate. Sports seasons now have been canceled for folks and they’re asked to stay home.
All these things happened because China lied. We could have prevented an economic collapse here in the entire world. We could have prevented the job loss and the death and the sickness and disease around the world had China not lied. That is why in my resolution, I talk about how a study was done in the United States, and found that 95% of the cases of infection around the world would not have happened had China been, from the beginning, upright and honest with what was going on. That’s why they should be held accountable.
You have the state of Missouri, now passed a law, and they’re going to allow their people to sue China for grievance. While I haven’t looked into that fully to see the total extent of that, you have people who are mad around the United States and the world at how the Communist Party of China has lied and allowed this to spread and develop, and I think it is rightly deserved. We need to hold them accountable, and I’m hopeful this is that moment, when public opinion now around the world recognizes the CCP for who they are, so we can understand who they are, and as we go forward in dealing with new trade negotiations and understanding what our relationship will be in the future, we will at least know the kind of entity here that we’re dealing with.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, what’s interesting about the Missouri lawsuit situation is that they’re explicitly calling out the Chinese Communist Party, much as you do in your resolution. I would like you to speak to that a little more deeply. You distinguish between the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese people. What is the purpose of that?
Sen. Roth: I know through my basic understanding of world history, as most of us have, I know that the CCP is not China. They were just a militant group that was able to more or less conquer the good people of China at the end of World War II and impose their will on them. And that’s why I absolutely like using the phrase that the CCP is holding the good people of China hostage, because that’s really the way I look at it. If the people of China had a vote in their government, they wouldn’t be supporting the CCP…Their surveillance that they put on their people, watching their every move, giving them a social score, having that determine whether or not they get access to a loan, or can use public transportation, or determine what kind of food and how much they can have. They do that because the only way they can stay in power is to control their people, which is the antithesis of how we operate here in the West and in the United States.
So I knew from the beginning that this isn’t a battle between the United States and the people of China. This is a battle between the Western world, freedom and liberty, and the CCP. And that’s why I wanted to make that [distinction]. We actually stand in solidarity with the Chinese people. And I know if they didn’t have the threat of their government, if they didn’t face the threat of retaliation against them, I know with absolute certainty that these people would not support the government that they have. If we gave them a choice, they wouldn’t be supporting the government that they have right now, and I just wanted to let people know that there has to be a distinction.
Otherwise what happens is that the Chinese government will take these words, and they will use their state-run media, and they will let their people know that, you know what, whatever you’re hearing about the West and about freedom, they actually hate you. They’re against you and what you stand for. That is why I want to make sure in everything that I say, and I encourage others, that we separate it. We talk about the CCP and the Chinese people, because they have to know and the word has to get to them, as I know that it is that the free people around the world stand in solidarity with them. We long for the day when they can rise out of the grip of control of the CCP and stand in a world of freedom. And when that day comes, I and many of us in the world will welcome them, as we welcome that time.
Mr. Jekielek: Very powerful words from you. I’ve always thought that one of the biggest hoaxes that the Chinese Communist Party has inflicted on its own people and frankly the world as well, is that it kind of conflates itself with China and the Chinese people. And then, as you said, actually very adroitly, you have Chinese people essentially defending its terrible actions because they feel personally connected as if attacking the CCP is attacking China and is attacking me. Powerful words. Where does your passion for this come from? I’m getting a lot of passion here from you. From what I understand from when we talked earlier, you haven’t been to China, but this is obviously incredibly important to you.
Sen. Roth: Well, it is and I am very passionate about it. I tell my staff because they’re participants here and watching when I’m doing my different interviews and so forth, and they can just tell my blood is starting to boil and so forth. The way I look at it, you’re right, I haven’t been to China. I certainly studied it in college here as a history major, so I studied Chinese history and so forth, so I have a bit of a connection there.
It is a human struggle. This is something that spans civilizations for all time in our world, and it’s a struggle between freedom and totalitarianism. Between people having the choice with what to do with their lives, and having somebody else tell them what they must do, and how they must live. And that is why when I look at the Chinese people, I see us in them. There was a time when we had to go through that struggle here in the United States, and we had to fight for the rights that we have here in setting up the government that we have. That is why I see what they are going through; the pain and the agony and the anguish here of the people and I can empathize with that.
But I also know that in the end of the day, if you look at history, right always wins out. It always wins out in the end. It’s just we have to go through some very bad times because of some of the choices we make. But I think now is that time. We like to think that the world we live in, this is the way it’s going to be for all time. People said that forever, only to see that the world changes.
And now I absolutely believe it could be that turning point in mainland China. I think if the world can stand united in condemning the CCP for not only lying and covering up about the coronavirus. You don’t have to look far to see the economic havoc that has wrecked upon the world and both in human toil too with the people who have died and the people who are sick. But if we can hold them accountable for that, and for their gross human rights violations and atrocities, now is the time for us to stand up against the CCP and let the good people of China know we’re with you, but we absolutely have fundamental problems with your government. I think that would go a long way to encouraging them and empowering the good people of China to do what they’re going to have to do here in the future, as we look to find the day when the CCP no longer is in power over the good Chinese people.
Mr. Jekielek: The passion in your voice is unmistakable. Very thoughtful words here. Our sister TV network NTD, which is actually the only independent broadcaster that broadcasts directly into China via satellite, and all sorts of VPNs and interesting ways to get through the Chinese censorship. I am sure we’ll be translating this interview and sharing it so this will go a lot further than just America. If you had a few words that you would like to say directly to the Chinese people, to the Chinese viewers inside Mainland China, what would you say?
Sen. Roth: I would say that most importantly, we stand in solidarity with you. I know it can be difficult under state-controlled media, and around an internet that has a firewall up, you don’t always get the truth. What you do hear coming from the United States and from free countries around the world is only negative things meant to misinform you about how the rest of the world really feels about the struggle that you’re going through. But make no mistake about it. The human struggle is one of people going from oppression and bondage into freedom and liberty. You are in that right now. The good people of the world stand united. All freedom people everywhere are united with the people of China.
You know, I think that if you looked back to the Cold War, and I think there’s a lot of illustrations between the United States and the struggle we had with Russia at that time, and what’s happening now in the world is the Russians sort of have taken a step backwards on the world stage, but certainly the Communist Party of China is taking a step forward.
There was a time that President Kennedy went to Berlin, and he gave a speech there. He told the people, he said “Ich bin ein Berliner”, which translated to “We are all Berliners” and what he was saying, I think, in the context of his speech is that if you go through history, there was a time when the greatest boast in all the world was to say that you were a Roman. He was saying to the people of Berlin at that time that he believes that the greatest boast is that you are a West Berliner.
I would say right now in the struggle for freedom and liberty, the greatest boast you can have in all the world is to be one of those freedom fighters in mainland China, who is struggling for their freedom and liberty. We stand with you, and we stand in solidarity with the struggle that you are going through.
Mr. Jekielek: Senator Roth, I’m very curious about how your awareness of the Chinese reality, which obviously you’re very clear on at the moment, has evolved over, let’s say, the past decade and so forth. Even going back 10 years, certainly 15 years, the Kissinger Doctrine was in play. Most people had a very different perception of the realities in China, even though some of the exact same stuff that we know is a reality today was happening. Can you speak to that a little bit, how your perception has changed and were there some milestones along the way?
Sen. Roth: I think if you went back 15 or 20 years, certainly into the middle 90s and forward, the thought around the world was if we can just open up China’s markets, if we can let them into the WTO and we can let them have increased trade in free markets and access of goods flowing back and forth, that we can somehow tame the CCP. If we do that, we can somehow use that as a force to change them.
And all we found out, how history really bore out, was that every time we extend an olive branch to the CCP, every time in good faith, we extend them an opportunity to join our trading organizations and to take part in world commerce, they do just the opposite. They exploit the institutions that we put in place. They steal our technology. They extort our businesses who try to open up and work and have access to their markets and at every turn they’re working against and undermining our way of government and our way of life. I think at the time, if you went back, you would have thought that this could play out right. But now in 2020, we recognize that that’s not the way it’s worked. In fact, the more we march down that road and the more access they’re given, and the stronger their economy does, the more they’re shutting their people off to the world, the more they’re using social media and the internet to control the lives of their people, using that technology to control the lives of their people, using their military to wreak havoc in the Pacific region of the world through the Spratly Islands and so forth.
I think right now, the current Trump administration, has the right approach. It really goes back a bit to what Ronald Reagan had when he was dealing with the Russians. I think part of it was peace through strength, and I think that’s an important concept. But then second, trust but verifying. I think the day has long since passed, when we’re just going, on its face, accept what the CCP says as truth. We’re going to verify. In no other case do you see that happening than in what’s happened with the coronavirus, where we kind of trusted them in the month of December and we trusted them and the World Health Organization in the month of January, only to find out that we had been lied to, and totally unprepared to deal with this pandemic. So this is that turning point, I believe. This is the opportunity where the free world can now stand up in unison, and speak against and condemn the lying and the deceit and of course, the human rights violations of the CCP. Now is that time, now is that opportunity.
Mr. Jekielek: What more powerful document is there than this resolution which the Chinese Consulate officially sent to you, which is filled with overt lies and mistruths. It’s truly remarkable. Any final words before we finish up?
Sen. Roth: I would just say that what they did was quite remarkable and quite brazen at that, which is why I wanted to make sure that our response was equally as strong. The reason I, in dealing with the CCP and dealing with their consulate, I used the one word when I said “Nuts.” to respond to what they were asking me to do, because I think that it, on its surface, is so ridiculous that what other thing can you say to what they are doing?
So to the rest of the world, if the CCP has reached out to you, and asked you to subvert your free governments, I just ask that you would tell them “Nuts.” If they’ve reached out to you, other lawmakers in the world, and asked them to parrot lies and untruths, I would just ask that you would respond to them “Nuts.” If you’re one of those individuals in mainland China right now who doesn’t have freedom and liberty, but one day we know that you will, I would just ask you to look towards your government and raise your hand and say “nuts” because the rest of the world now recognizes the CCP for who they are, and if we stand in unison against them, and against their actions, that can be the catalyst for the change that we need in this world.
Mr. Jekielek: Senator Roger Roth, such a pleasure to have you on.
Sen. Roth: Appreciate it. Thank you.