Pompeo warns that China is targeting PTA meetings as part of influence campaign

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned on Wednesday that Beijing is targeting PTA meetings as he warned that its influence campaign is “increasing in intensity.”

“We’ve watched the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] campaigns targeting state-level officials, local interests. We’ve seen them at PTA meetings,” Pompeo said during a speech at the Wisconsin state Senate. “They’ve been at full-swing for years, and they’re increasing in intensity.”

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He warned state lawmakers in the key swing state that the Chinese campaign against the U.S. was not limited to efforts against the federal government.

Intelligence officials have warned that Beijing is trying to meddle in the presidential election to prevent President Trump’s reelection. But Pompeo warned that the CCP is targeting state and local governments as well and see them as the “weak link.”

He warned that the campaign seeks “to make Americans receptive to Beijing’s form of authoritarianism.”

“This isn’t the Cold War. It’s different in kind,” he said. “The CCP’s effort is more sophisticated, multi-layered, and nuanced. That’s why we have to have a conversation in our state legislatures about this China challenge. It’s as important in Wisconsin as it is in Washington.”

He cited examples in California and New York, where lawmakers had received letters and other pressures from Chinese consulates, leading to one bill being shelved in California, and also Chinese sister-city programs.

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In Wisconsin, Chinese officials tried to lobby the state Senate to pass a resolution praising China for its response to COVID-19. The move failed, and the Senate president responded only by calling it “nuts.”

Pompeo also noted signs of espionage campaigns at municipal and city level — including the charges brought against an NYPD officer who allegedly acted as a Chinese agent and reported on the activities of Tibetans in the U.S.

“Know that when you are approached by a Chinese diplomat, it is likely not in the spirit of true cooperation or friendship,” he warned.

Pompeo urged lawmakers to pass laws for closer cooperation with the feds on IP protection and counterinfiltration and for them to scrutinize state pension funds for signs of Chinese investment.

At the federal level, among the broad pushback against Chinese influence, he said the State Department is reviewing the activities of two United Front Work Department organizations in the U.S., over concerns they are attempting to exert influence on schools, businesses, media outlets and politicians.

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The Trump administration has been cracking down on Chinese actions, not only in the U.S. but abroad. The U.S. has sounded the alarm on Chinese incursions against freedoms in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, and has called on the international community to investigate China’s role in the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier this week, Trump told the United Nations General Assembly it must hold China “accountable” for its role in the early days of the coronavirus.

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