California Democratic Rep. Judy Chu has handed out congressional awards to at least 10 individuals who belonged to alleged Chinese Communist Party (CCP) intelligence front groups, a Daily Caller News Foundation investigation found.
Over the last decade, Chu has awarded certificates of “Congressional Recognition” to at least 10 individuals for a variety of reasons, including launching a non-profit, according to multiple sources. However, at the time the awards were given, the recipients also belonged to a handful of organizations that were previously identified by China experts and U.S. government agencies as front groups serving a Chinese government “intelligence service,” according to DCNF translations of related membership records.
Furthermore, many of the certificate recipients have at one point or another financially contributed to Chu’s political campaigns, finance records reveal. (RELATED: Biden Appointed Member Of Alleged Chinese Communist Front Group To Rep US Business In Asia)
Chu’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Seven of the 10 individuals in question have belonged to either the China Overseas Exchange Association (COEA) or the organization with which it merged in 2019, the China Overseas Friendship Association (COFA), the DCNF found.
Multiple experts recently told the DCNF that both COEA and COFA serve the United Front Work Department (UFWD), a Chinese government agency tasked “with extending the CCP’s influence and control over non-Party organizations both domestically and abroad to advance CCP policy objectives,” according to multiple reports from the U.S.-China Economic Security and Review Commission (USCC).
“Yes, COEA and COFA are front groups for the UFWD,” Ina Mitchell, co-author of “The Mosaic Effect: How The Chinese Communist Party Started A War In America’s Backyard,” told the DCNF.
COFA’s website reveals that the organization was founded by the UFWD in 1997, while the USCC identified the organization as “the UFWD China Overseas Friendship Association” in 2018.
In November 2018, Rep. Chu awarded a “Certificate of Congressional Recognition” to Stephen Sham for his public service. Sham was reportedly the first Chinese-American to serve as mayor of Alhambra, California, a city located within Chu’s 28th Congressional district.
However, in addition to his public service in Alhambra, Sham also served as COEA’s “director” between 2013 and 2019, whereupon he began a five-year position as COFA’s “director,” DCNF translations of archived rosters found.
COFA’s purpose is to “unite patriotic overseas Chinese” in order to “shape international public opinion of China abroad,” Mitchell said. “COFA fulfills its mission through elite capture and public diplomacy with Western political figures.”
The DCNF located Sham’s Chinese name, Shen Shikang, within a Radio Free Asia article, and matched it with archived rosters to confirm his former and current membership within the two alleged Chinese intelligence front groups. Sham is listed within COEA’s records as “Alhambra City Councilor,” a DCNF translation determined, a position to which he was elected in 2006, 2010, 2013 and 2017, according to his LinkedIn profile.
“There are thousands and thousands of United Front groups,” Mitchell told the DCNF. “It’s not hard for us to identify them, but the public doesn’t see it.”
The inclusion of the word “friendship” in a Chinese group’s name — such as with COFA — is one tell-tale sign that the organization is a UFWD front, according to Mitchell. As for COEA, a 2019 Hoover Institution report similarly claimed that “all of China’s ‘exchange’ organizations had been assigned political missions.”
Between 2009 and 2016, Sham donated $10,975 to Rep. Chu, according to campaign finance records, a time period that partly overlaps with his position as COEA’s “director.”
Sham did not respond immediately to the DCNF’s request for comment.
CCP influence operatives attempt to build legitimacy for themselves within communities by donating to local politicians, with the tacit expectation of receiving a given politician’s recognition in return, Mitchell said.
Influence operations can “be as simple as campaign contributions to Western politicians” in exchange for “the implementation of policies that are favorable to the Chinese government,” Mitchell told the DCNF.
In July 2022, the Director of National Intelligence warned that China’s proxies offer financial benefits to government leaders in an effort to gain leverage.
“The compromise can come there because of a reliance on that money,” Scott McGregor, co-author of “The Mosaic Effect,” told the DCNF. “You’re basically in bed with the devil.”
UFWD front groups posing as community centers and nonprofits also approach U.S. politicians, like Rep. Chu, offering to help drum up votes and fund political campaigns, McGregor said. “A politician is looking for votes and the Chinese diaspora votes in blocs, so these [UFWD] associations are valuable,” he added.
Chu’s office lists 10 types of “Congressional Commendations” individuals residing in her 28th Congressional District may request from the congresswoman, including “appointment to public office,” “heroism” and “other achievements of public distinction.”
Although the majority of the certificate recipients in question have belonged to COEA and COFA, Rep. Chu also issued certificates to two individuals who belonged to the All-China Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese (ACFROC) at the time they received Chu’s award, an organization the USCC identified as serving the CCP’s UFWD.
Alex Joske, a former Chinese intelligence analyst at the Australia Strategic Policy Institute, characterized ACFROC as a “peak united front body for ethnic Chinese with overseas links.”
“ACFROC has been instrumental in co-opting many state governors and legislators,” Dean Baxendale, CEO of the China Democracy Foundation, told the DCNF.
In October 2019, Rep. Chu awarded Zhang Sujiu, daughter of the CCP general Zhang Zhizhong, a “Certificate of Congressional Recognition” commemorating her role in planning an art exhibition in Los Angeles celebrating the People’s Republic of China’s 70th anniversary, according to a DCNF translation of a report from the Chinese-language news outlet AMTV USA.
In addition to having served as “director” and “executive director” of COEA between 2009 and 2017, Zhang has also served as “adviser” to the Shanghai chapter of ACFROC since 2010, according to DCNF translations of the alleged UFWD front groups’ websites.
The 2019 art exhibition, which Zhang organized, reportedly featured a 15-foot-wide painting entitled “Return to Liangjiahe” depicting General Secretary Xi Jinping, according to a DCNF translation of an article by the All-America Chinese Youth Federation (AACYF).
The DCNF recently revealed that Rep. Chu has served as “honorary president” of AACYF since 2012, a non-profit whose leadership has included five individuals who belonged to alleged UFWD front groups, such as COEA and COFA.
As with Sham, Zhang also donated $1,900 to Rep. Chu between 2009 and 2010, a time period that overlapped with Zhang’s membership in both COEA and ACFROC, campaign finance records reveal.
Zhang did not respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
Several individuals have, in fact, received more than one “Certificate of Congressional Recognition” from Rep. Chu over the years, the DCNF determined.
For example, since 2013, Rep. Chu has awarded five certificates to Ma Shurong, the Government & Community Relations Officer at the Chinatown Service Center in Los Angeles, according to multiple Chinese-language news reports from outlets such as Sina.com and AMTV USA.
The first certificate Chu issued to Ma appears to have been awarded in recognition of Ma’s founding of the U.S. Overseas Chinese Friendship Association in Los Angeles, according to a DCNF translation of a Sina.com report.
Yet, Ma served as COEA‘s “director” between 2017 and 2019, and since 2019 has held the same title at COFA, according to a DCNF translation of those alleged UFWD front groups’ websites.
Ma has also donated to Rep. Chu, campaign finance records reveal. Between 2009 and 2022, Ma donated $3,975 to Rep. Chu, a time period that partly overlaps with Ma’s membership in both COEA and COFA.
Ma did not respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
These revelations follow just over a week since the DCNF revealed that Rep. Chu was named “honorary chairwoman” of the Forums for Peaceful Reunification of China in 2019, an anti-Taiwan independence organization that is allegedly a UFWD front group.
As it turns out, during the ceremony in which Chu was appointed “honorary chairwoman,” Chu also awarded the anti-Taiwanese independence group’s incoming chairman, Guo Zhiming, a “Certificate of Congressional Recognition,” according to a DCNF translation of a report from Las Vegas Chinese News Network.
Since 2009, Guo has made over a dozen donations to Chu totaling $14,850, campaign finance records reveal.
Guo could not be reached for comment.
“These organizations are, in fact, directly linked and funded by the CCP’s UFWD as arms of CCP’s spying operations overseas,” Pastor Bob Fu, CEO of ChinaAid, a Christian human rights watchdog, told the DCNF, after reviewing a list of the alleged front groups in question.
“Anyone who supports or recognizes any one of them as legitimate NGOs are either an accomplice or totally compromised,” Fu said. “This might be the reason why Rep. Chu chose to vote against the establishment of the House Select Committee on CCP earlier.”
On Jan. 10, Chu voted against the formation of the House Select Committee charged with investigating the CCP’s malign influence efforts.
While defending her vote, Chu alleged that the new committee might prompt anti-Asian violence, according to a statement released by the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), which Chu chairs.
All content created by the Daily Caller News Foundation, an independent and nonpartisan newswire service, is available without charge to any legitimate news publisher that can provide a large audience. All republished articles must include our logo, our reporter’s byline and their DCNF affiliation. For any questions about our guidelines or partnering with us, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.