Jan 22, 2020

DOJ should compel Xinhua to register as foreign agent, lawmaker says

A national flag-raising ceremony is held at Tian'anmen Square in Beijing on Jan. 1. (Photo by Peng Ziyang /Xinhua via Getty Images)

A Republican congressman has asked Attorney General William Barr to examine whether Chinese state news agency Xinhua has registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), in a letter viewed exclusively by Axios.

Why it matters: The wave of U.S. government concern about foreign government funded-media outlets isn't subsiding — and China is still a main focus.

In the Jan. 22 letter to Barr, Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) notes that Xinhua does not appear to have registered yet and calls it "extremely troubling" that it hasn't. He asks the Department of Justice to look closely at the issue.

  • Xinhua operate bureaus in major cities across the United States.
  • The letter quotes the 2017 annual report from the U.S.-China Security and Economic Review Commission, which stated that "Xinhua serves some functions of an intelligence agency by gathering information and producing classified reports for the Chinese government."
  • FARA requires entities that receive foreign government funding or direction to submit disclosures to the Department of Justice, and that information is entered into a public database. The law does not interfere with or regulate the operations of those who register.

What they're saying:

  • "Xinhua and the Chinese Communist Party have deep, longstanding ties," Banks noted in the letter — but "there have been no reports that the Xinhua News Agency has filed as a foreign agent."

Context: Banks' letter is a follow-up to a January 2018 letter spearheaded by Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio which called on the Justice Department to look closely at Chinese state-funded media outlets operating in the United States, including Xinhua and CGTN America, the U.S. outpost of China's government-run broadcaster.

  • Leahy and Rubio sent that letter one month after I reported that CGTN America had not registered under FARA.

Background: The Russia investigation highlighted the role of foreign-funded media outlets in efforts to influence U.S. public opinion. The Department of Justice compelled Russian government-funded news network RT America to register under FARA, which helped spark discussion around official Chinese outlets in the United States.

But the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has expressed concern with the Justice Department's move over the past two years to compel some foreign government-funded media outlets to register under the act.

  • "We're uncomfortable with governments deciding what constitutes journalism or propaganda," CPJ said in a statement after Russian news outlet RT was compelled to register in November 2017.

Read the letter:

Go deeper: China's expanding global influence campaigns are sparking pushback

Go deeper

Exclusive: Pompeo says new China media restrictions "long overdue"

Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The State Department announced Tuesday that it has designated five Chinese state media outlets as "foreign missions," meaning that they will be treated as arms of the Chinese government.

Driving the news: In his first public statement on the new designation, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tells Axios that the five outlets are "clearly controlled by the [Chinese Communist Party], and we are simply recognizing that fact by taking this action.”

Go deeperArrowFeb 18, 2020 - World

China expels 3 Wall Street Journal reporters

Tiananmen Gate in Beijing. Photo: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

China's Foreign Ministry revoked on Wednesday the press credentials of three Beijing-based Wall Street Journal journalists and ordered them to leave the country within five days, the news outlet confirmed.

Why it matters: The action taken over the Journal op-ed headline "China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia" comes hours after the State Department designated the Chinese state media outlets Xinhua, China Global Television Network, China Radio International, China Daily and Hai Tian Development USA as "foreign missions," meaning they are treated as arms of the government, as Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian first reported.

Go deeperArrowFeb 19, 2020 - World

Justice Department says U.S. attorneys are reviewing Ukraine information

Rudy Giuliani. Photo: Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd sent a letter to House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) Tuesday informing him that the U.S. attorneys for the Eastern District of New York and the Western District of Pennsylvania are reviewing "unsolicited" information from the public related to matters involving Ukraine.

Why it matters: Nadler had requested an explanation for the "intake process" that Attorney General Bill Barr stated had been set up in order to receive information that Rudy Giuliani had obtained about the Bidens in Ukraine.