AAPI community leaders are concerned that the tense U.S.-China relationship, which has become more fraught in recent weeks over accusations of Chinese spying, has spurred on a fresh wave of xenophobia as high-ranking Asian American politicians become the targets of Republican attacks.
Rep. Judy Chu, the first Chinese American woman elected to Congress, is accused of being “unpatriotic,” by Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Texas, because of her support for Dominic Ng, President Joe Biden’s appointee as Chair of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). Ng is accused of having ties to the Chinese Communist Party by Gooden and five other House Republicans.
Chu, a Democrat from California, is the chairwoman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), and perhaps one of the most well-known AAPI members of the House. A second generation Californian and native of Los Angeles, she is also the daughter of a WWII veteran.
“This is absolutely alarming, but not unsurprising, given the parties involved,” John C. Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-AAJC, told Ethnic Media Services. “Gooden has questioned Chu’s patriotism, which is repulsive, reprehensible, and unforgivable.”
“Congresswoman Chu is a true patriot. Any accusations of being a Communist are sheer buffoonery,” said Yang.
“To suggest that Dominic Ng is somehow a spy is laughable and flies in the face of common decency,” he added.
Yang noted that any time China comes into the national conversation as an adversary, there is a palpable spike in racist attacks. “We do have geo-political differences with China, but also a hot war with Russia, yet no one is profiling Russian Americans.”
The White House should issue a statement about how Chinese Americans have contributed to the nation’s well-being, suggested Yang.
‘Ramping Up Xenophobia’
Manjuusha Kulkarni, Executive Director of the AAPI Equity Alliance and co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate, told EMS she was very discouraged by the attacks on Chu and Ng. “Upstanding citizens who are leaders in our community are under attack only because of their ethnicity,” she said, adding that she would not be surprised to see a spike in hate crimes against the AAPI community. “We are ramping up xenophobia once again,” she said.
“Chinese Americans are not responsible for the spy balloons and there is no evidence that they are engaging in dangerous activity. A lot of Chinese immigrants are against the CCP, and may be why they migrated: to seek a new life and a different form of government.”
Kulkarni said she is alarmed by the number of bills in state Legislatures across the nation which seem to be fueled by xenophobia. Of particular concern to her is Texas’ SB 147, which, in its original form would have barred Chinese citizens from buying homes in the state. The bill has been modified, after a volley of concerns about racism.
Chu’s Loyalty and Competence in Question
In an interview with Fox News’ Jesse Waters Feb. 22, Gooden stated that Ng had ties to the Chinese Communist Party. He went on to say that Chu should be investigated, along with Ng.
“I question her loyalty and competence,” said Gooden. “If she doesn’t realize what’s going on then she’s totally out of touch with one of her core constituencies.”
Gooden went on to say: “I’m really disappointed and shocked that someone like Judy Chu would have a security clearance and entitled to confidential intelligence briefings until this is figured out.” He called for the congresswoman to be relieved of her committee assignments.
‘Loyalty Should Not Be Questioned’
Democrats, and Republican Mike Gallagher, R-Wisconsin — who co-chairs the new House Select Committee on China along with Democrat Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois — immediately denounced the statements by Gooden, saying they were racist. Gallagher and Krishnamoorthi appeared on Face The Nation with Margaret Brennan Feb. 26 and condemned the attack on Chu.
“One of my colleagues, unfortunately, attacked Judy Chu, the first Chinese American Congresswoman in the United States Congress, saying that somehow she’s not loyal to the United States. I find that offensive as an Asian American myself,” said Krishnamoorthi.
Gallagher agreed. “Well, let me say we should not question anybody’s loyalty to the United States. I think that is out of bounds. It’s beyond the pale,” he said.
On Feb. 15, Gooden and five Republican members of Congress sent a letter to FBI director Christopher Wray, alleging Ng’s ties to the CCP and calling for an investigation. The letter stated that between 2013 and 2017, Ng served as the executive director of the China Overseas Exchange Association which is a front organization for the United Front Work Department, a Chinese intelligence service whose mission is to liaison with foreign political parties, influence operations, and collect intelligence.
COEA subsequently merged with the China Overseas Friendship Association, which “remained a front group for UFWD when Mr. Ng began a 5-year terRm as COFA’s executive director in 2019,” stated the members of Congress in the letter.
“Organizations like the UFWD and its affiliated groups play an increasingly important role in Chinese foreign policy and allow political actors like Mr. Ng to gain influence in sensitive American institutions to advocate for the interests of communist China. This tactic is regularly employed by the CCP to infiltrate governments and influence policies for CCP-oriented outcomes,” they wrote. “The Biden Administration has allowed the CCP to infiltrate the third-party sector and, consequently, political leaders that have existing relationships to these groups and are privy to U.S. intelligence. Further encroachments cannot be tolerated.”
The letter was signed by Gooden, and Reps. Tom Tiffany, R-Minnesota, R-Florida, Ben Cline, R-Virginia, Doug La Malfa, R-California, and Keith Self, R-Pennsylvania. (Sunita Sohrabji/Ethnic Media Services)