The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Democrats defend Rep. Chu against ‘xenophobic’ accusations of disloyalty to U.S.

Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) speaks during a news conference on the Safe Communities Act at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on June 24, 2022. (Eric Lee/For The Washington Post)
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House Democrats are rushing to the defense of Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) after a Republican congressman questioned her “loyalty” to the United States and suggested she should not have access to intelligence briefings, following unsubstantiated reports in a conservative outlet that Chu had ties to the Chinese Communist Party.

“I think that Judy Chu needs to be called out,” Rep. Lance Gooden (R-Tex.) told Fox News host Jesse Watters on Wednesday. “I question her either loyalty or competence. If she doesn’t realize what’s going on, then she’s totally out of touch with one of her core constituencies.”

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) on Thursday slammed Gooden’s “slanderous” comments as “dangerous, unconscionable and xenophobic.”

“Look in the mirror, Lance. You have zero credibility,” Jeffries said, after noting that the Republican congressman had voted against certifying Joe Biden’s electoral college win in the 2020 election, and “appears to sympathize with violent insurrectionists,” referring to the pro-Trump mob that overran the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Other Democratic lawmakers, including Reps. Dan Goldman (N.Y.) and Adam B. Schiff (Calif.) condemned Gooden’s comments. California Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu, a retired judge advocate in the Air Force, said on Twitter Thursday that he had served in the military to defend the right of Gooden and other Americans to make “stupid, racist” remarks. But Lieu also shined a spotlight on the harm comments like Gooden’s can cause.

“Attacking the loyalty of Asian Americans like @RepJudyChu is a racist trope that has harmed Asian Americans throughout U.S. history,” Lieu said.

Earlier this year, the Daily Caller published stories showing that Chu was listed as an “honorary president” on the website for the All America Chinese Youth Federation, a group whose other leaders have belonged to alleged Chinese intelligence front groups.

The conservative outlet also alleged, based on translations of a Chinese-language website, that Chu had said she wished for Taiwan and China “to become one family” at a 2019 dinner for a group that opposes Taiwan’s independence. The article included a link to a Chinese-language media outlet that showed pictures of Chu posing with others at the event and holding a certificate that read “Honor President.”

Chu refuted any affiliation with such groups in a Feb. 14 statement, and did so again with The Washington Post on Friday, saying that, while in office, organizations, businesses and campaigns have frequently used her name without her permission.

“In my lifetime, I have never made statements for a peaceful reunification of China with Taiwan — not at this event, nor at any event,” she said in a statement to The Post, referring to the 2019 dinner. “I have had no contact with this group ever since demanding the retraction, and have never attended an organizational meeting of this group.”

Chu also emphasized that her record in Congress showed her strong support for Taiwan, including calling on the World Health Organization to readmit Taiwan, voting for legislation that supports U.S.-Taiwan relations, and visiting Taiwan in 2013.

“In actuality, I have been quite visible in my support for a democratic, secure Taiwan,” she told The Post. “I have made many appearances at events supporting Taiwan, and given speeches reflecting these positions.”

Chu was elected to Congress in 2009, becoming the first Chinese American to do so. Since then, she said she has served on the board of only two organizations — the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS) and the APAICS Leadership Network — which are both “dedicated to creating a pipeline of Asian American leaders in Congress.”

Gooden and other conservative critics have pointed to Chu’s vote in January against the formation of a select committee to assess “strategic competition” between the United States and China as evidence of her supposed sympathies with the Chinese government. Chu has said she voted against the formation of the committee because she feared intensifying anti-Asian hate and racial profiling in the United States, and because she believed the same work could be done by existing House committees.

After Gooden’s interview on Fox News, Chu suggested she had been singled out from the 65 Democrats who voted against the committee because she was Chinese American.

“Rep. Gooden’s comments on Fox News questioning my loyalty to the USA is absolutely outrageous,” Chu said. “It is based on false information spread by an extreme, right-wing website. Furthermore, it is racist. I very much doubt that he would be spreading these lies were I not of Chinese American descent.”

In a statement Friday, Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), the chairwoman of the Democrats’ congressional campaign committee, defended Chu.

“Congresswoman Judy Chu is a public servant whose patriotism, heritage, and transformative contributions to our country ought to be celebrated, not used by Republicans to stoke hatred, division, question Judy’s loyalty, and spread blatant misinformation,” DelBene said.

The right-wing accusations of disloyalty against Chu have come alongside similar allegations against Dominic Ng, the CEO of East West Bank whom President Biden appointed to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Business Advisory Council last April. The Daily Caller alleged that Ng served in leadership roles in two Chinese intelligence front groups, prompting Gooden and other House Republicans to call on the FBI to investigate Ng in a Feb. 15 letter that was signed by five other Republican lawmakers.

In a statement Thursday, the East West Bank said Ng was not an active member of either of the groups cited by the Daily Caller. Ng had been invited to take an “honorary position” in the China Overseas Exchange Association in 2013, one of the two groups, but never attended COEA meetings or paid membership dues, the bank stated. Ng withdrew his name from the group, “citing non-participation,” according to the bank.

“Mr. Ng has had no connection with COFA or ever agreed to serve as an executive director of COFA,” East West Bank added, referring to the China Overseas Friendship Association, the second alleged group cited by the Daily Caller.

In response to Gooden’s letter to the FBI, Chu released a joint statement with leaders of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), denouncing the call for such a probe.

“No Chinese Americans — indeed no Americans — should face suspicions of disloyalty or treason based on their ethnicity, nation of origin, or that of their family members,” they said in the statement. “That kind of profiling is beneath us all, particularly those entrusted with public office.”

Gooden, in turn, accused Chu on Fox News of being a “ringleader” who “drug along the other Chinese Americans to sign this letter.” Asked for a response to Chu on Thursday, Gooden doubled down.

“Rather than following facts that indicate the presence of Chinese espionage, Chu and Jeffries are playing the race card in a sick display of disloyalty to our nation,” Gooden said in an email.

When asked for comment on the allegations against Ng, the White House on Friday morning referred a Post reporter to the State Department. On Friday afternoon, the State Department referred a Post reporter to the White House for comment on Ng.