U.S. State Department’s Assistant Secretary David Stilwell recently warned the public: “Influence and interference operations are fundamental to how the Chinese Communist Party engages with the world.” Through two leaked documents, the rest of the world recently discovered more about how aggressive and extensive the CCP’s influence and interference operations are: a database of CCP members and a secret agreement between Switzerland and Chinese police.
The CCP Member Database
One of the largest newspapers in Australia, The Australian, reported last weekend it obtained a leaked database of nearly two million CCP members, including their national ID number, birth date, and party position. Additionally, the database contains information on almost 80,000 party branches, showing these CCP members are currently working inside international corporations, universities, and even government agencies around the world.
Based on this database, The Australian also disclosed the names of several companies that have employed CCP members, including Boeing, Volkswagen, Qualcomm, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Deutsche Bank, and J.P. Morgan. Further, as seen via the database, numerous CCP members have infiltrated Australian, American, and United Kingdom consulates in Shanghai, China.
The database was reportedly extracted from a Shanghai-based server by a Chinese dissident in 2016. The Australian stated it hasn’t found any evidence that any member on the list is spying for the CCP. Still, there are good reasons to be concerned. As one national security expert suggested, “Allowing members of the CCP to work for such companies risks their stealing technology, providing intelligence to China on forthcoming weapons systems and capabilities, or on force structures built around those capabilities.”
That no spying has been discovered yet doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened or it won’t happen in the future when the CCP issues a call to action. After all, these CCP members took the same oath when they first joined the party, to “carry out the Party’s decisions; strictly observe Party discipline; guard Party secrets; be loyal to the Party … fight for communism throughout my life, be ready at all times to sacrifice my all for the Party and the people, and never betray the party.” If the party demands its members to share sensitive technology or take certain actions, it will be very difficult for a CCP member to say no.
Besides security concerns, having this many CCP members holding senior positions at western companies and government agencies also raises the concern that they would influence or sway these entities to support the CCP’s policies. For example, the U.K.’s Telegraph discovered:
…At least 335 HSBC employees were CCP members. Current members include the senior vice-president of HSBC China, the president of HSBC’s Shenzhen office, and the deputy manager of Hong Kong corporate and consumer products are listed as members.
The paper also learned that the deputy president of Standard Chartered Bank in China, Dong Shuyin, has won the “Excellent Communist Party Member in Shanghai” award.
Not surprisingly, both HSBC and the Standard Chartered Bank publicly backed the new national security law that China imposed on Hong Kong to crack down on dissent in the city. The law is so draconian that even a tweet supporting Hong Kong protests could land someone in jail. At least two dozen Hong Kong activists have been imprisoned under the security law since it went into effect in July.
HSBC not only supports the policy but may help with its enforcement. Ted Hui, a former pro-democracy Hong Kong lawmaker who now lives in Denmark, claimed that HSBC froze his and his family’s bank accounts. It’s worth asking: would HSBC carry out Beijing’s economic coercion like this had it hadn’t employed so many CCP members in its senior management?
Switzerland’s Secret Deal with Chinese Police
Another leak came from Safeguard Defenders, a Switzerland-based Human Rights organization. It disclosed last weekend that Switzerland had established a secret “Re-admission Agreement“ with Chinese police since Dec. 8, 2015, and posted details of the deal on its website.
Countries typically establish a “Re-admission Agreement” with each other’s immigration agencies to address illegal immigration issues and make sure illegal immigrants or visa over-stayers will be safely returned to their country-of-origin. What’s unusual about Switzerland’s agreement with China is that the deal allows agents from China’s Ministry of Public Security to have “free access in Switzerland, for unsupervised operations across the country.” Furthermore, Switzerland “agreed to keep the identity of visiting agents secret. Agents are selected by China, and Switzerland has no part in the selection.”
Yet MPS is no ordinary agency in China. It’s in charge of Chinese police, national security, espionage, and intelligence. It’s known for suppressing domestic dissent and has been accused of human rights violations.
In recent years, it has expanded its operations overseas, sending agents around the world to bring Chinese nationals it deems as “criminals” back to China — part of “a global, concerted, and extralegal repatriation effort known as ‘Operation Fox Hunt.’” According to China’s state media, the operation has been highly successful and about 6,000 “criminals” have returned to China by mid-2019, including 300 Uighur Muslims from 16 different countries.
Nevertheless, the aggressive tactics Chinese agents deploy as well as their vague definition of “criminals” have irked law enforcement agencies in the West. In August, the U.S. Department of Justice charged eight people, including both Chinese nationals and U.S. residents, with conspiring to act as illegal agents of China, in a multi-year campaign of harassment and stalking of Chinese immigrants in the United States, attempting to force them back to China.
In contrast, Switzerland appears neither bothered by the hard-hitting tactics of Chinese agents nor concerned with the fate of those who have been forced to return to China. There’s also apparently little concern over whether they committed crimes, or were persecuted for being critical of the CCP’s policies, and whether they would be safe upon their return to China.
Under the agreement between Switzerland and China, the Swiss government put very little constraints on their Chinese counterpart. Chinese MPS agents have been allowed to go anywhere they want, and “meet” anyone they want in Switzerland without the Swiss government’s supervision.
In 2016, 16 Chinese nationals who resided in Switzerland were forced to return to China as the result of these MPS agents’ visits. So far, the Swiss government refuses to disclose who these people were. Even more outrageous, the Swiss government covered the cost of the extensive travel expenses for these Chinese agents. In essence, “Swiss taxpayers are paying for Chinese police agents to secretly enter Switzerland and conduct unsupervised operations against Chinese people inside their country.”
What’s not surprising, but embarrassing for Switzerland, is that the deal is not reciprocated. By no means do Swiss agents who travel to China enjoy anything near the same kind of unsupervised movement inside China. As such, it isn’t clear why the Swiss government signed such an erroneous agreement to aid the CCP, and what benefits, if any, this deal has brought for Switzerland.
When details of this deal became public, it caused an uproar in both the Swiss public and members of Parliament. Since the deal expired on Dec. 7, Switzerland’s Foreign Affair Committee requested a consultation on any renewal of a similar agreement.
The leaked database of CCP members and a secret agreement between Switzerland and Chinese police reveal that the CCP’s influence and infiltration operations are far-reaching and widespread in a scale and magnitude that was previously unknown. It also shows the CCP’s success in executing its plan is at least partially due to the complacency or even willing cooperation by some short-sighted western corporations and governments.
It’s high time for citizens in Western democracies to demand their corporations and governments stand up for the values and liberties we cherish and resist the CCP’s infiltration, corruption, and economic coercion. The long term survival of free societies is at stake.