Chinese Media Paints a Different Picture of John Liu Campaign Scandal

March 1, 2012 Updated: December 10, 2013

News Analysis

NEW YORK—While English-language newspapers in New York are labeling Comptroller John Liu a “Liu-ser” in light of alleged acts of campaign fraud committed by his treasurer and fundraiser, the major Chinese-language newspapers in the city continue to support Liu in his mayoral campaign.

These outlets are either controlled or influenced by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), according to a report in the journal China Brief. The CCP has also shown great support for Liu in its state-run media overseas.

When Liu’s 2013 mayoral campaign fundraiser, Xinwu “Oliver” Pan, was charged with fraud last November, some Chinese-language media outlets cried discrimination.

For example, the World Journal printed a political analysis article on Nov. 17 with the headline “FBI Trapping Pan Xinwu to Get at John Liu? Laying a trap for Pan Xinwu, political analysis: fear of Asian becoming mayor, coercing Pan to testify against Liu.”

Stella Chan, a reporter for Sing Tao Daily New York, wrote an article titled “Reporter’s Notebook: ‘Scandal’ vs. ‘Issue,’” about the difference between English-language Chinese-language media coverage of Liu’s campaign investigation.

Her article, published on Feet in Two Worlds, a website that publishes the work of ethnic media journalists in the United States, explains that the Chinese community identifies strongly with Liu as he is the first Chinese-American to hold a city-wide office in New York City. They take personal offense when Liu is referred to as a “Liu-ser” by English-language media outlets.

Chan analyzed the difference between English-language and Chinese-language coverage of a Dec. 22, 2011 press conference.

“The Post and The Daily News came up with the headlines ‘Liu in FBI cross hairs’ and ‘Liu insists he’s still running for mayor despite probe,’ while the Chinese media wrote articles about supporters calling for a united community to back up Liu,” writes Chan.

The Chinese Regime’s Agenda

Three of the four major Chinese-language newspapers in the United States—World Journal, Sing Tao Daily, Ming Pao Daily News, and The China Press—are directly or indirectly controlled by the Communist regime, according to an article in the journal China Brief, published by the non-partisan Jamestown Foundation, which researches public policy issues.

The fourth, World Journal, had “recently begun bowing to pressure from the Beijing government,” in 2001 when the article in China Brief was written. World Journal, based in Taiwan, was seeking business ties in mainland China, ties that have deepened since 2001.

The journal describes Sing Tao’s situation, an example of the financial and political sway the regime holds overseas: “In the late 1980s, STNG [Sing Tao Newspaper Group] owner Sally Aw Sian met with financial crisis, and found a financial solution in the form of aid from the Chinese government. The past decade or so has seen the transformation of Sing Tao Daily into a procommunist newspaper.”

The article also mentions that China Daily, established in New York in 1990, is directly controlled by the CCP and represents the voice and point of view of the regime.

The Chinese regime has shown support for Liu and his political campaigns in the United States.

Liu traveled to China in 2007 to receive an award as one of the “Most Influential Overseas Chinese” by 10 CCP-controlled media companies. The CCP-controlled media in China has given Liu much favorable attention.

Li Fengzhi, a former intelligence officer of the CCP’s Ministry of State Security says, “The politicians who get high publicity in the CCP’s official media are often those who are close to the CCP privately or are who the CCP nurtures.”

Accompanying Liu on his 2007 trip was the founder and president of the Beijing Association of New York, Hou Jianli. Hou is also the father of Jenny Hou, 25, Liu’s 2013 mayoral campaign treasurer, who was arrested on Tuesday after a long-running FBI investigation brought down charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Coverage of Jenny Hou’s Arrest

The complaint against Hou includes excerpts from instant message conversations in which she allegedly instructs campaign volunteers to imitate the handwriting of campaign donors and offers to return funds to a straw donor, among other illegal activities.
Chinese-American media outlets did not cry discrimination this time, but they did defend Hou and Liu.

A World Journal article states, “Everybody thinks Hou Jia [Jenny Hou] is the White Rabbit who accidentally stumbled into the dangerous forest of politics.”

Sino Vision, a Chinese-language television station in New York that has also been known to follow the Party line, reported on Wednesday, “Many people hope that the Liu scandals will blow over soon. It is known that the road is turbulent for Chinese-American politicians so successors still need to be courageous and diligent.”

A Sing Tao headline reads, “Campaign Team Newcomer Hardworking and Innocent-Minded,” referring to Hou, who the article describes as being praised by Chinese American leaders. The praise, states the article, is warranted in part by her vocal support of the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Her attorney, Martin B. Adelman, also praised her advocacy of the Beijing Olympics when he spoke with media before the arraignment hearing Tuesday evening.

Hou’s Family Ties to the CCP

In 2008, the Beijing Association founded by Jenny Hou’s father hired two airplanes to fly streamers over lower Manhattan that read, “Go to 2008 Beijing Olympics” and “CNN, Cafferty, Shut up!” according to a report by Xinua news agency, the state-run media in China that functions as the mouthpiece of the CCP.

The “Shut up!” is directed at CNN anchor John Cafferty, who raised concerns at that time about human rights abuses perpetrated by the CCP in Tibet.

The two banners demonstrate an outstanding feature of the CCP’s propaganda: the conflation of the Chinese people’s feelings of patriotism with support for the CCP. In this case, support for the Olympics and opposition to any criticism of the CCP’s human rights record are displayed side by side.

The message to Chinese people is that to criticize the CCP is to be unpatriotic, or that patriotism demands support for the CCP.

In a January interview with Sing Tao, the elder Hou articulated the appeal to patriotism or ethnic pride, seen as embattled by a hostile majority culture, that seems to lie behind much of the Chinese- language media’s coverage of Liu.

“John Liu is a pioneer of Chinese Americans in politics and even if he collapses on the ‘front line’ he will still be a hero,” he said. “Those Chinese Americans who have helped him, whether it’s handing him a cup of water on the road or sending him a bullet, should be proud to be a part of making history.”