35 US Lawmakers Seek DOJ Probe of Chinese State-Run Paper China Daily

35 US Lawmakers Seek DOJ Probe of Chinese State-Run Paper China Daily
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) speaks to the media after attending a briefing with administration officials about the situation with Iran, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 8, 2020. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Cathy He

A group of 35 U.S. lawmakers has urged the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate the Chinese state-run newspaper China Daily for alleged violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

China Daily, an English-language newspaper, is overseen by the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Publicity Department, the governmental agency in charge of disseminating propaganda. Over the past few years, it has spent millions running supplements—called “China Watch”—containing propaganda disguised as news, in major U.S. newspapers including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Washington Post.

Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), and 33 other lawmakers, in a letter to Attorney General William Barr dated Feb. 6, asked the DOJ to “promptly review and produce a report on China Daily’s compliance” with FARA. Their request came following a December report by The Washington Free Beacon that found the publication didn’t properly disclose the paid advertisements for more than 30 years.

“Propaganda that seeks to obfuscate communist atrocities deserves to be counteracted,” the letter stated.

Banks said in a statement: “China Daily is a disgusting propaganda rag that’s used by the Chinese Communist Party to cover for the regime’s ongoing atrocities.

“If there’s one lesson from the Cold War, it’s that our victory was only possible because we convinced the world that democracy was superior to communist authoritarianism. Well, it looks like we have to fight that battle again—this time against a far wealthier and equally determined adversary. The federal government must use every weapon in its arsenal to ensure the triumph of our values—the consequences of failure are unspeakable.”

The newspaper registered as a foreign agent under FARA in 1983. That law requires registered foreign agents to provide the DOJ with copies of all propaganda “circulated among two or more persons.” It also requires registrants to submit to the department, twice a year, an itemized report of spending inside the United States, the letter said.

China Daily is part of the Chinese regime’s global propaganda efforts, a campaign that the CCP has committed $6.6 billion to since 2009, the letter said. The regime has, according to FARA filings, spent $35 million on China Daily alone since 2017, it added.

The state-run paper has inserted articles in U.S. publications that serve to paint the regime in a positive light and minimize its oppression of the Chinese and other peoples. For instance, it ran a piece in The Wall Street Journal titled “Law-Based Campaign Transforms Xinjiang,” and another in The Washington Post under the headline “Education Flaws Linked to Hong Kong Unrest,” the letter noted.

“Such articles serve as a cover for China’s atrocities, including its crimes against humanity in the Xinjiang region and its support for the crackdown in Hong Kong,” it said.

The lawmakers added that the regime is “committed to shifting foreign perceptions of the Chinese Communist Party.”

“This summer’s NBA boycott and the arson of the Epoch Times headquarters in Hong Kong show the lengths China will go to protects its international image,” the letter said, referring to the arson attack on the print shop of the Hong Kong edition of The Epoch Times last November, an incident that bore the hallmarks of the CCP’s tactics to suppress its opponents.
Last November, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) in a letter urged news organizations to reconsider their collaborations with China Daily, saying, “We are giving the Chinese government an opportunity to promote values antithetical to the freedoms guaranteed in our Bill of Rights.”

The DOJ and China Daily did not respond to requests for comment.

Cathy He is the politics editor at the Washington D.C. bureau. She was previously an editor for U.S.-China and a reporter covering U.S.-China relations.
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