CCP Virus Outbreak in Massachusetts Illustrates Ties With Chinese Regime

April 29, 2020 Updated: May 5, 2020

Commentary

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced on Feb. 1 the state’s first confirmed case of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus. The patient, a student from the University of Massachusetts–Boston (UMass Boston), had returned just days earlier from Wuhan, ground zero of the outbreak in China.

The student, a man in his 20s, arrived in Boston on Jan. 28 and sought medical attention after developing symptoms consistent with COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP virus.

He tested positive for the virus on Jan. 31, becoming the eighth confirmed patient in the United States.

It wasn’t until March 2 that Massachusetts discovered a second case. Since then, the CCP virus has spread rapidly in the state. More than 54,900 people have tested positive, and more than 2,800 people have died from the virus as of April 26, according to official data.

UMass Boston has participated in the Chinese regime’s efforts to exert its soft power abroad via Confucius Institutes (CI).

CIs are facing increased scrutiny globally over their role in censoring speech on school campuses and aiding Beijing’s spy operations. In recent months, an increasing number of CIs across the country have been shut, one after another.

Officials in Massachusetts and elsewhere have allowed the Chinese regime’s influence to infiltrate local education systems through trade and cultural exchanges.

Confucius Institute: A Propaganda Front

UMass Boston established the state’s first CI, the sixth in the nation, in 2006.

Like most CIs, the China-funded educational program was focused on cultural projects, training Chinese language teachers, and providing Chinese language courses. It also organized hundreds of college and high school students to study in mainland China.

The CI at UMass Boston also attracted people interested in Confucianism by offering lectures on the subject, such as a course titled “Global Confucianism in the 21st Century.”

A documentary, “In the Name of Confucius,” illustrated that candidates to be Chinese-language teachers at CIs must pass Chinese authorities’ review and background investigation. The employment agreement clearly states that they shouldn’t support or have a positive view of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice severely persecuted in China since 1999.

Instructors hired by CIs also are prohibited from discussing topics that the Chinese regime deems sensitive, such as the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, Tibet, and Taiwan. CI programs also teach communist propaganda songs in classrooms.

In 2014, a CI was established at Tufts University. Other education programs launched by Beijing were also adopted across the state.

In 2017, under the leadership of the UMass Boston CI, the public high school Cambridge Rindge and Latin School held an opening ceremony for the Confucius Classroom, the high school version of the CI. The UMass Boston CI also cooperated with the Chinese consulate in Boston to hold “Chinese Bridge” language exchange programs and other activities, while promoting the idea of learning Chinese “to promote Sino–U.S. friendship.”

Since 2018, the U.S. government has closely watched CIs because of security concerns. In March of that year, the Tibet Action Institute hosted a screening of “In the Name of Confucius” in Boston. Growing criticism by UMass Boston students and faculty about the CI prompted the university to disband the institute in January 2019. Meanwhile, Cambridge Rindge and Latin also decided against renewing its contract with the Confucius Classroom.

While UMass Boston and the CI appear to have severed formal ties, the school still maintains connections with Chinese institutions, including the renewal of its memorandum of understanding with Renmin University in Beijing last year.

Visa Fraud Scheme

In September 2019, a Chinese national, Liu Zhongsan, was arrested and charged by federal prosecutors with fraudulently obtaining U.S. visas for Chinese government employees, for the purpose of assisting Beijing’s efforts to recruit talents in the United States and advance its national goals.

From 2017 to September 2019, Liu worked for the New York office of the China Association for International Exchange of Personnel (CAIEP), as the chief representative.

CAIEP is a Chinese government agency that recruits U.S. scientists, academics, engineers, and other experts who can assist Beijing’s technological and economic development needs, the U.S. Justice Department said in a statement. This agency is under the control of the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs (SAFEA), which is a department within China’s cabinet-like State Council.

According to a September 2019 report by the Boston Globe, Liu was suspected of contacting at least seven U.S. universities to sponsor the “Chinese scholar” visas. When these “scholars” came to the United States, they didn’t engage in research but instead recruited scientific and technological talents for the CCP. In 2018, he tried to bring a CCP government official to the United States and contacted several schools, including UMass Boston.

The Globe reported that Sun Baifeng, the former head of the Confucius Institute at UMass Boston, was still working at the university and was interested in cooperating with Liu in the alleged visa scheme. Since the FBI opened its investigation of the case, UMass Boston has placed Sun on paid leave, the Globe has reported.

According to the court documents, in January 2018, Liu contacted Sun, who said it would be “very easy for us” to get a visa at UMass Boston.

“If he/she puts the files here, we don’t care if he/she is here in person, as long as he/she comes over to participate when there is an event,” Sun said, according to the documents.

“The case has raised serious questions about UMass Boston’s oversight of its international student and scholar programs,” the report noted.

The school doesn’t have sufficient mechanisms to review and track visiting scholars, which may result in schools violating immigration regulations, according to a copy of a 2018 internal university report that was obtained by the Globe. During the 2017–2018 academic year, the school received nearly 300 J-1 visa scholars, many of them from China, according to the report.

J-1 visas are non-immigrant visas that are often issued to professors, researchers, and students.

Officials Support State Ties With CCP

Under former Gov. Deval Patrick, the Massachusetts government promoted ties with the Chinese regime. During a trade mission to China in December 2007, Patrick emphasized that Massachusetts and China have a “special trade relationship” that spans more than two centuries.

Under Patrick’s successor, Charlie Baker, the state has pursued further economic ties with China.

In October 2016, the state legislature hosted the first “China Day” event, at which State Rep. Patricia Haddad, the speaker pro tempore of the Massachusetts House, was a guest speaker. She said efforts should be made to promote the relationship between Massachusetts and China, “from biotech, science and technology, health care to energy … all of these things are important for the betterment of both of our worlds.”

China Day events have been held each year since then to celebrate the state’s ties with China.

Chinese state-owned firm China Railway Rolling Stock Corp. (CRRC) won a contract in 2014 to build new subway cars for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, Boston’s public transportation system. CRRC has a rail car factory in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Amid concerns that Beijing could exploit such deals to infiltrate U.S. critical infrastructure, some lawmakers introduced a bill in August 2019 that would prohibit future deals with agents of “non-market economy countries.”

Since last year, the production of new subway cars for Boston’s Orange Line has been delayed at least twice, due to production issues and stay-at-home policies due to the pandemic.

In January, it did not cause much disturbance when a man carrying the CCP virus arrived in Boston from Wuhan. Massachusetts officials repeated Beijing’s and the WHO’s erroneous judgments on the virus’s potential to spread. However, a month later, the epidemic escalated, leading to the deaths of thousands of Massachusetts residents.

The CCP virus follows the path laid out by the Chinese regime—and serves as a warning to those that wish to deal with the CCP.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.