Chinese Diplomats Will Need to Ask Permission to Conduct Visits, Meetings in US: State Department

September 2, 2020 Updated: September 2, 2020

Senior Chinese diplomats in the United States will now have to apply for permission to visit U.S. college campuses and meet with local officials, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Sept. 2, a move he described as an attempt to restore reciprocity in the bilateral relationship.

The State Department also will require the Chinese embassy and local consulates to apply for approval to host events with an audience of more than 50 people outside the mission.

The measures are a direct response to “excessive restraints” the Chinese regime imposes on U.S. diplomats, Pompeo said. Beijing requires American diplomats to apply for permission to host cultural events, visit university campuses, and conduct official meetings, which are regularly refused, he said.

“PRC [People’s Republic of China] authorities implement a system of opaque approval processes designed to prevent American diplomats from conducting regular business and connecting with the Chinese people,” Pompeo said in a statement.

“We’re simply demanding reciprocity. Access for our diplomats in China should be reflective of the access that Chinese diplomats in the United States have, and today’s steps will move us substantially in that direction,” he told a news briefing on Sept. 2.

The decision expands a rule change from last October that requires Chinese diplomats to report contacts with U.S. educators, researchers, and local and state governments.

Pompeo said the department also seeks to ensure all official Chinese embassy and consular social media accounts are identified as Chinese government accounts, citing Beijing’s ban of Western social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. The U.S. embassy in China is also denied “unfettered access” to Chinese social media, he added.

Twitter in August started labeling accounts of key U.S. and foreign government officials, as well as state-affiliated media outlets; Facebook has started labeling state-controlled media outlets, although it doesn’t have a similar policy in relation to government accounts.

The Trump administration earlier this year designated nine Chinese state media outlets in the United States as foreign diplomatic posts, recognizing their role as propaganda organs of the Chinese Communist Party. U.S. officials said the decision, which restricted the outlets’ operations and staffing in the country, was an act in reciprocity to Beijing’s continued use of “intimidation to silence members of a free and independent press.”

Pompeo also said Keith Krach, the State Department’s under secretary for economic growth, had written recently to the governing boards of U.S. universities alerting them to threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party.

“These threats can come in the form of illicit funding for research, intellectual property theft, intimidation of foreign students, and opaque talent recruitment efforts,” Pompeo said.

He said universities could ensure they had clean investments and endowment funds, “by taking a few key steps to disclose all (Chinese) companies’ investments invested in the endowment funds, especially those in emerging-market index funds.”

Reuters contributed to this report. 

Follow Cathy on Twitter: @CathyHe_ET