WASHINGTON—Gov. Gavin Newsom should immediately fire California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) Chief Investment Officer Yu Ben Meng because of his “long and cozy” relationship with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), according to Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.).
In a Feb. 12 letter to Newsom, Banks pointed out that, with $360 billion in assets, CalPERS is the biggest public employee pension program in the United States and it has a long history of “shareholder activism,” in which officials leverage the fund’s wealth to influence corporate and government policies around the world.
“Mr. Meng was hired as the deputy CIO of China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE) in 2015. SAFE is a Chinese Communist Party agency responsible for managing $3 trillion in state-owned assets,” Banks told Newsom.
“Mr. Meng, who first moved to the United States at 25, told the Chinese newspaper People’s Daily regarding his return to China, that ‘in a person’s life, if there is an opportunity to work for the motherland, this responsibility and honor is unmatched by anything.’”
Banks said that, if it were his decision and given Meng’s record, he “would fire Mr. Meng immediately,” because of his loyalty to the CCP and status as a former senior official with one of Beijing’s most critical financial assets.
“At the least, I think a thorough investigation of Mr. Meng’s relationship to the Chinese Communist Party and a comparison of CalPERS investments in Chinese companies before and after” his hiring by the pension are needed, Banks added.
The Indiana Republican noted that “Meng was recruited to SAFE through China’s Thousand Talents Program (TTP). TTP is a program which brings talented businessmen, researchers, and scientists trained abroad back to mainland China, where they apply their expertise in service” to the CCP.
“According to FBI Assistant Director Bill Priestap, TTP is a part of ‘China’s non-traditional espionage against the United States.’ Presumably, a TTP member’s mission is lifelong,” Banks told Newsom.
Banks listed the most significant of CalPERS’s massive investments in China, estimated in 2018 to be $3.1 billion in at least 172 Chinese firms. He also noted that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the nation’s governors, including Newsom, during a Feb. 9 speech that CalPERS “is invested in companies that supply the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) that put our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines at risk.”
Banks said its most recent investment report confirms that “CalPERS holds shares of China Communications Construction Co. (CCCC), which has constructed PLA naval bases in the South China Sea, and in China Shipbuilding Industry Corp., a state-owned enterprise, and the largest manufacturer of Chinese naval ships.
“CalPERS also owns shares in China Aerospace Times Electronic Co. and China Avionics System Co., both of which supply the Chinese military with aerospace electronic products,” Banks continued.
Under Meng’s leadership, Banks said, CalPERS has invested heavily in a wide variety of Chinese firms, including those providing surveillance and other products used in Beijing’s extensive violations of human rights such as the regime’s repression of Uyghur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang Province.
“CalPERS is invested in Hikvision, a Chinese video surveillance manufacturer that supplies Xinjiang’s security forces with surveillance tools used to monitor the Uyghur minority.
“The U.S. federal government stopped doing business with Hikvision last August over concerns with its role in China’s treatment of Uyghurs. CalPERS also holds $74,000,000 worth of China Unicom stock, the firm that runs North Korea’s internet.”
Banks also expressed concern about CalPERS investments under Meng’s leadership that boost China’s overall economy in its drive to surpass the United States as the world’s leading economic, political, and military power.
“CalPERS owns $75 million in China Telecommunications Corp. stock — China’s dominance in the telecommunications industry is widely recognized as a significant national security risk.
“Another CalPERS investment is in China Communications Construction Co., which is the biggest builder in the Belt & Road initiative, which seeks to establish China as the dominant leader in African, Asian, and Middle Eastern trade,” Banks told Newsom.
A spokesman for Newsom didn’t respond to The Epoch Times’ request for comment on the Banks letter. A CalPERS spokesman also didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Marcie Frost, CalPERS’s chief executive officer, told Reuters that Banks’s letter and demand for Meng’s termination are “a reprehensible attack on a U.S. citizen. We fully stand behind our chief investment officer who came to CalPERS with a stellar international reputation.”
Contact Mark Tapscott at Mark.Tapscott@epochtimes.nyc