Pompeo Criticizes China’s Hypocrisy in Choosing to Reject US Ambassador’s Op-ed

September 10, 2020 Updated: September 10, 2020

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called out Beijing’s hypocrisy in a statement reacting to a Chinese media outlet’s decision to refuse publishing an op-ed drafted by the U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad.

Pompeo said the outlet, the Chinese Communist Party’s official mouthpiece, People’s Daily, cited “a litany of grievances” while explaining its rationale for rejecting Branstad’s op-ed in a letter addressed to the U.S. Embassy in China.

“The People’s Daily’s response once again exposes the Chinese Communist Party’s fear of free speech and serious intellectual debate–as well as Beijing’s hypocrisy when it complains about lack of fair and reciprocal treatment in other countries,” stated Pompeo in a statement on Sept. 9.

Pompeo pointed out that in contrast, China’s Ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai, has given exclusive interviews to, and published five op-eds on, prominent U.S. news outlets, such as Washington Post, CNN, and CBS, this year.

Branstad’s proposed op-ed, titled “Resetting the Relationship Based on Reciprocity,” noted that the Chinese regime has exploited the United States’ open society, while preventing U.S. officials, including Branstad himself, from engaging freely with the Chinese people. Beijing also recently placed restrictions on U.S. journalists reporting in China.

For example, he wrote, Chinese companies listed on the U.S. stock exchanges have refused to submit to U.S. auditing rules that all other companies must follow. A small number of Chinese students and researchers have also stolen American intellectual property to benefit Beijing, while either studying or working at U.S. schools, companies, or research institutes.

Branstad also addressed a Chinese propaganda talking point—that the United States was trying to “contain” China’s rise—saying that such a claim was “categorically false.”

For example, “at our universities, we continue to welcome the vast majority of Chinese students, but we have taken action to deny visas to those who illegally acquire U.S. intellectual property and research results.”

On Wednesday, a State Department spokesperson said that the U.S. government revoked more than 1,000 visas of Chinese nationals over their ties to the Chinese military. The U.S. Department of Justice also recently prosecuted several Chinese researchers who concealed their ties to the Chinese military when obtaining their non-immigration visas.

“The root cause of the current tensions in the relationship is China’s longstanding strategy of only selectively ‘coupling’ with the United States and systematically controlling the access of Americans to Chinese society,” Branstad said.

Branstad ended his op-ed by calling on Beijing to address U.S. concerns about “the imbalance in the relationship,” and allow people in both countries to “build relationships through unrestricted engagement and uncensored discussion.”

In a letter addressed to the spokesperson of the U.S. Embassy in China, People’s Daily rejected Branstad’s proposed op-ed, accusing it of being “full of loopholes and seriously inconsistent with facts. It said publishing the article would be akin to doing “propaganda” for the United States.

In an apparent suggestion of tit-for-tat retaliation, People’s Daily listed examples of how Chinese media institutes were subject to U.S. “suppression,” such as by designating them as “foreign missions.”

Earlier this year, the State Department named nine Chinese media outlets, including CCTV, CGTN, and People’s Daily, as foreign missions, identifying them as propaganda organs of the CCP. These media are required to register their employees and U.S. properties with the State Department.

However, the designation does not stop these Chinese media outlets from continuing to operate in the United States.

In his statement, Pompeo called on Beijing to allow Western diplomats to “speak directly to the Chinese people.” Additionally, Beijing should stop intimidating and harassing both foreign and Chinese journalists who “strive to uphold the integrity of the fifth estate to serve the public good,” he said.

Cheng Lei, a Chinese-born, naturalized Australian citizen, was arrested in China this August. She works as a news anchor for CGTN, China’s English-language state-run broadcaster. She has since been placed under “residential surveillance” at an unknown location.

And earlier this week, China correspondents for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the Australian Financial Review returned to Australia under consular protection, after Chinese officials knocked on the doors of their Chinese residences and told them to submit to interrogations regarding Cheng.

In response to Cheng’s arrest, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) issued a statement, saying her arrest was unjustified. Cédric Alviani, head of RSF’s East Asia bureau, called on democracies to “step up their pressure on the Beijing regime so that it releases Cheng Lei and the 115 other jailed journalists and press freedom defenders.”

Follow Frank on Twitter: @HwaiDer