Coronavirus Outbreak in Massachusetts Puts Spotlight on Ties With Chinese Regime
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced on Feb. 1 the first confirmed case of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus in the state. The patient was a student from the University of Massachusetts Boston (UMass Boston) who returned from Wuhan city, ground zero of the outbreak in China.
The student, a man in his 20s, arrived in Boston on Jan. 28. He sought medical attention after developing virus symptoms. He tested positive for the virus on Jan. 31. This international student became the eighth confirmed patient in the United States.
It was not until March 2 that Massachusetts discovered the 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, CIs across the country have shut down one after another.
Massachusetts state officials have thus allowed the Chinese regime’s influence to infiltrate in the local education system through trade and cultural exchanges.
Confucius Institute: A Propaganda Front
UMass Boston established the first Confucius Institute (CI) in Massachusetts in 2006, which paved the way for more branches to open throughout the state. It was the sixth CI in the nation.
Like most CIs in the world, the China-funded educational program 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.”
The documentary “In the Name of Confucius” revealed that candidates for CI Chinese language teachers must pass Chinese authorities’ review and background investigation. The employment agreement clearly states that they should not support or have a positive view of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice severely persecuted in China since 1999. Instructors hired by CIs are also prohibited from discussing topics that the Chinese regime deems sensitive, such as the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989, Tibet, and Taiwan. CI programs also teach communist propaganda songs in classrooms.
After the CI at UMass Boston was established, 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 kept a close watch on CIs over security concerns. In March that year, the Tibet Action Institute hosted a screening of the documentary “In the Name of Confucius” in Boston. As students and faculty at UMass Boston became critical of the CI, mounting pressure prompted the university to disband the institute in January 2019. Cambridge Rindge and Latin School also decided not to renew their contract with the Confucius Classroom.
Though UMass Boston and the CI appear to have severed ties, the school still maintains ties with Chinese institutions. The university renewed 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.
According to the court complaint, CAIEP is a Chinese government agency that recruits U.S. scientists, academics, engineers, and other experts who can assist in Beijing’s technological and economic development needs. This overseas 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 American universities to sponsor the “Chinese scholar” visas. When these “scholars” came to the United States, they did not engage in research, but 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.
Boston Globe reported that Sun Baifeng, the former head of the Confucius Institute at UMass Boston, was still working at the university and also interested in cooperating with Liu in his visa fraud scheme.
Since the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) began investigating the case, UMass Boston has placed Sun on paid leave, according to the Boston Globe.
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 Boston Globe also obtained a copy of a 2018 internal university report, which stated that the school does not have sufficient mechanisms to review and track visiting scholars, which may result in schools violating immigration regulations. During the 2017-2018 academic year, the school received nearly 300 J-1 visa scholars, many of them from China, according to the report.
Officials Support State Ties With the CCP
Under former governor 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 pursued further economic ties with China.
In October 2016, the state legislature hosted the first “China Day” event at the Great Hall of Massachusetts State House. State Representative Patricia Haddad was a guest speaker and 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.” Subsequently, “China Day” events have been held each year to solidify ties between Massachusetts and China.
Chinese state-owned firm China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC) won a contract in 2014 to build new subway cars for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, Boston’s public transportation system.
CRRC also has a rail car factory located in Springfield.
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, production of new Orange Line subway cars was delayed at least twice due to production issues and stay-at-home policies due to the pandemic.
Looking back to January this year, it did not cause much disturbance in Massachusetts when a man from Wuhan arrived in Boston, carrying the CCP virus. Officials in Massachusetts repeated Beijing’s and the WHO’s erroneous judgments on the virus’s potential to spread. However, a month later, the epidemic escalated, killing thousands of Massachusetts residents.
The COVID-19 coronavirus follows the path laid out by the Chinese regime and serves as a warning to those that want to deal with the Chinese Communist Regime.