The group attacking late-night host Jimmy Kimmel for a sketch that supposedly offended Chinese people has close ties to the Chinese Communist government.
The Roundtable of Chinese American Organizations, a tiny Rosemead, California-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit with $64,987 in reported income and $10,907 in assets as of year-end 2011, organized nationwide protests to demand Kimmel’s firing after he hosted a comedic “Kids’ Table” segment October 16 in which a child suggested that America should “kill everyone in China” to help ameliorate our federal debt.
Though ABC and Kimmel both apologized, groups mobilized by the Roundtable refuse to accept Kimmel’s apology. Approximately 1,500 protesters rallied outside ABC Studios in Burbank, Phoenix, and Houston this weekend. Protesters last month rallied outside ABC Studios in New York City with signs likening Kimmel to Adolf Hitler and accusing Kimmel of “manipulating children” and promoting “genocide.”
A petition on the White House’s “We the People” website calling for an “investigation” of Kimmel’s show has gained more than 100,000 signatures, crossing the threshold at which the White House has promised to respond.
Despite its tiny size, the Roundtable is reportedly comprised of 72 Chinese organizations across the country, and its close links to the Communist government span decades. Though Charles Lu, who stated earlier this year that “Friendship is very important” between the U.S. and Chinese governments, is now identified in press coverage of the Kimmel crusade as chairman of the Roundtable, the group’s website still identifies its original president and CEO Sue Zhang as chairwoman.
Zhang, daughter of the legendary Nationalist general-turned Communist leader Zhang Zhizhong, was the head of the welcome committee that hosted a 500-head banquet for current Chinese paramount leader and General Secretary of the Communist Party of China Xi Jinping when he visited the United States in February 2012. The banquet was held at the J.W. Marriott hotel in downtown Los Angeles.
At the time, Xi was vice president of China. Zhang, then president of the Roundtable, and Xi discussed their shared seaside family vacations when Zhang was younger, with the Communist leader remembering Zhang as a “beautiful and fashionable” young woman.
Zhang also led a group, possibly the Roundtable, that warmly greeted Xi in Mandarin at the airport when Xi arrived at LA/Ontario International Airport for a June 2013 summit with President Obama in his new capacity as Chinese paramount leader. Tibetan independence activists stood nearby and protested the visit.
Zhang, then still identified as “head” of the Roundtable, expressed disappointment and anger at First Lady Michelle Obama’s decision not to participate in the June 2013 summit.
“She lost a very good chance to meet the First Lady of China. This is not good for her. It’s not very friendly towards China,” Zhang said.
Zhang, who was listed as president and CEO on the Roundtable’s 2010 and 2011 Form 990’s, has well-known connections to the Communist Party of China.
“It’s not important to meet [Premier] Wen Jiabao or [President] Hu Jintao. What difference would it make? I met them already when I was young,” Zhang said in 2008, explaining why she shouldn’t need to promote her Communist insider credentials to gain an honorific leadership position in the Chinese-American community.
“I met Mao. Zhou Enlai sent flowers when I was married. He saw my baby when it was born. I was in that circle. I was already in that world. I don’t have anything to ask,” Zhang said.
As of 2008, Zhang was locked in a divisive battle with two other Chinese-American figures to gain the title of “No. 1,” an unofficial but highly prized role in the Chinese community connecting the Communist government of China with Chinese-Americans. The job has been described as that of an “underground mayor” and the perks include having the Chinese “roll out the red carpet for you” upon visits back to China.
“To be recognized as No. 1, a person must have strong ties to the communist government but also be seen as a leader in the mainland Chinese American community, where there is far from unanimous support for the homeland government,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
One of Zhang’s rivals for the No. 1 position, John Cheng, said that Zhang’s close ties to the Chinese Communist government should not guarantee her the No. 1 spot.
“Mao and Deng [Xiaoping]: What are their daughters doing…A background is just a background. It doesn’t mean you’re a natural leader,” Cheng said, referring to Zhang’s Communist family pedigree.
“I think Sue [Zhang] and John Chen think they’re the leaders. Some people think the leader should be appointed by the consul general. That’s not right. This is America. You need charisma to be a leader,” Cheng said.
This August, the Roundtable greeted Liu Jian, incoming Consul-General of the People’s Republic of China in Los Angeles, upon his arrival in the city.
Hollywood Park Casino owner Leo Chu is listed as head of the Board of Directors of the Roundtable, according to the group’s website.
The Roundtable of Chinese American Organizations did not return a request for comment.