Concerns Grow That Congress Is ‘Target’ of Beijing’s Espionage as Britain Contends With Spying Disclosures, Head of House China Committee Warns

Following the arrest of a British parliamentary researcher on suspicion of spying for China, fears grow of political subversion by the People’s Republic on American soil.

M.J. Koch/The New York Sun
Congressman Mike Gallagher at the June 4th Museum at New York City on September 12, 2023. M.J. Koch/The New York Sun

In light of startling disclosures of Beijing’s espionage activities in Britain’s parliament, concerns are growing of similar threats to Congress, the chairman of the House select committee on Communist China is warning.

“All of us in Congress and our staffs are targets” of Beijing’s spying, Congressman Mike Gallagher said at the Tiananmen Square museum at New York City. 

These concerns are being raised following the United Kingdom’s arrest this week of a parliamentary researcher on suspicion of spying for China, in what could represent one of the nation’s most serious breaches of security involving a hostile state.

Prime Minister Sunak has expressed to China’s premier, Li Qiang, “significant concerns about Chinese interference in the U.K.’s parliamentary democracy,” as he told British journalists after meeting Mr. Li on the margins of the G20 summit at New Delhi. 

A July report by parliament’s intelligence and security committee declared that China’s “increasingly sophisticated” spying operation targeting the nation and its interests is yielding a “completely inadequate” response by the government.

In the most recent case of a string of Chinese espionage incidents in America, the Department of Justice arrested two Navy service members on charges of providing military information to the Chinese government. 

The arrests “are a reminder of the relentless, aggressive efforts of the People’s Republic of China to undermine our democracy and threaten those who defend it,” the assistant director of the FBI’s inspection division, Suzanne Turner, asserted in an August statement

In Congress, a two-year federal probe into Congressman Eric Swalwell’s interactions with a suspected Chinese spy led to “no further action” on the issue, the chairman of the House Ethics Committee, Michael Guest, said in a March letter obtained by the Hill. 

“It’s time to move on,” Mr. Swalwell said in a statement defending his innocence. He denied accusations of his ties with the alleged spy, Christine Fang, who worked on his campaign and supported other California politicians who were rising in the political ranks. 

In an attempt to rein in further infiltration by the authoritarian regime, the bipartisan House select committee on china, headed by Mr. Gallagher, filed its first ever subpoena last week to investigate a Chinese-owned lab in California that produced pregnancy and coronavirus tests to sell online without permits or permissions.

Following online speculation over possible production of bioweapons and calls for investigation from Speaker McCarthy, Mr. Gallagher and the ranking China committee member, Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi, demanded that the lab provide records of its operations.

The documentation released by the lab, which is operated by a company owned by Chinese nationals, Prestige Biotech and Universal Meditech, exposed “troubling gaps in safeguards” and “serious deficiencies in the federal government’s response,” a House source told Politico. 

The House select subcommittee on the coronavirus pandemic is also threatening to subpoena the FBI if it does not share information to Congress regarding the lab, whose biological materials were removed and destroyed by Fresno County and other agencies in July.

Mr. Gallagher equated the principal Chinese spy agency, the Ministry of State Security, with the former Soviet Union’s Committee for State Security, better known as the KGB.

“The MSS doesn’t occupy the same place in people’s minds that the KGB did,” Mr. Gallagher said, “so it’s hard for people to truly understand the scale and scope of Chinese espionage.”

Mr. Gallagher’s comments regarding espionage against Congress came during a visit to the New York museum’s June 4th Memorial Exhibit, which is dedicated to remembering the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, given the “very strong effort by the Chinese Communist Party to erase the history,” the executive director of the museum’s organizing association, David Yu, tells the Sun. 

Mr. Yu says that Communist China has a tighter grip on the civil liberties of Chinese and American citizens than it did during its massacre of student protesters under leader Deng Xiaoping’s regime.

“China went back to the Maoist era where only one person could talk,” he says, explaining that the government’s “invented crimes” against the people — including those who immigrated to the United States — have mounted dramatically in recent years. 

Families of the victims remain afraid to speak about the massacre to this day, as the Chinese government has consistently prohibited discussion of the events in 1989, Mr. Yu says. The closure of a June 4th museum at Hong Kong in 2021, due to a national security law effectively criminalizing commemorations of the protests, prompted the opening of one in New York. 

“Our naivety and wishful thinking surrounding the Communist party should have ended on June 4th, 1989,” when “the true nature of the Marxist-Leninist regime was revealed,” Mr. Gallagher said.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies counts 224 instances of Chinese espionage directed at America since 2000, 69 percent of which were reported after Mr. Xi took office as president in 2013. The March 2023 tally is likely incomplete, yet far outstrips the number of incidents against America by any other adversary, including Russia. 

“Chinese nationals who come to the U.S. to work or study are a fertile ground for recruitment,” the center wrote, suggesting the potential for political subversion by the People’s Republic on American soil. 

While Americans of Chinese descent are unlikely to be recruited, Chinese nationals who intend to return to China or have close family members there are “more susceptible to coercion,” the center said.

As part of its crackdown on the People’s Republic, the House committee pledges to expose Chinese “economic espionage” regarding American intellectual property and to protect American jobs and opportunities, an Iowa congresswoman who serves on the China committee, Ashley Hinson, said during Tuesday’s visit.

To protect U.S. investments in China from being used against the national self-interest, Americans need to know “where their capital is going, what it’s funding, and why it’s funding it,” Ms. Hinson said. 

Malign behavior on social media should also be curtailed, Mr. Gallagher added, arguing that platforms should not allow the spread of anti-American propaganda by the Chinese government: “At minimum, people should be aware that they’re consuming propaganda from a hostile adversary.” 

“To call ourselves a leader of the free world, we have a duty to fight for freedom,” Mr. Gallagher said during the tour. Above him hung a blood-soaked university banner that was used to bind the bullet wounds of a student near Tiananmen during the massacre — a symbolic reminder of the dangers of authoritarianism.

“Freedom is the victor,” Mr. Gallagher said, quoting the committee’s motto. 

The New York Sun

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