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Chinese state-linked tech giant hires former US Congressman as lobbyist

WeChat (Sinchen.Lin/Flickr)
September 21, 2020

California Republican Ed Royce recently registered as a lobbyist for Chinese tech giant Tencent, a company that helps the Chinese Communist Party regime implement censorship and surveillance.

While in office, the former House Foreign Affairs Committee chair was an ardent critic of human rights abuses committed by the Vietnamese Communist Party and supported several bills targeting China, South China Morning Post reported.

During his 16 years in office, Royce introduced the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), a bill that has been used to punish Chinese military members. Royce also supported legislation meant to strengthen Taiwan’s defenses and international stature.

Royce isn’t the only former elected official to lobby on behalf of the Chinese tech giant. Five other former congressional aides were hired by Tencent to represent them in Washington this year, according to congressional lobbying disclosure forms. The law firm Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison was also hired by Tencent for lobbying purposes.

According to Axios, Royce is one in a long line of former elected officials who now lobby on behalf of Chinese companies accused of human rights violations.

Royce, 68, has a history of criticizing human rights violations committed by the Communist Party in Vietnam. In 2007, Royce supported a bill meant to withdraw non-humanitarian support from Vietnam if the government refused to make progress in human rights.

Royce called for the release of political prisoners and discouraged the idea that warming ties with Vietnam mean overlooking human rights abuses.

“The United States has a growing relationship with Vietnam, particularly in the security and trade arenas. However, human rights remain a core value to us and we cannot segregate them from our on-going engagement with the Vietnamese government,” said Royce in a 2017 press release addressing the necessity of improving human rights in Vietnam.

Tencent’s push for lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill comes amid a looming ban on WeChat, Tencent’s “super-app” that most Chinese people use for messaging, banking, hailing cabs, paying bills, and running their businesses.

Residents of China that use the WeChat app know that if they post anything politically sensitive, public security officials could show up on their doorsteps within hours, Axios reported. In addition to providing the Chinese government with user data, Tencent also allows public security officials continuous access to messages, enabling the CCP’s restriction on any dissenting content.

The Xinjiang public security bureau has reportedly used WeChat to “identify, surveil, and threaten Uighurs abroad” to assist in China’s systematic repression aimed at forcing the ethnic minority to assimilate.