The State Department on Tuesday imposed restrictions on Chinese media operating in the United States, saying they should be treated as virtual arms of the Communist government in Beijing.
A State Department official said the restrictions were put in place under the Foreign Missions Act which controls the activities of foreign governments. Under the curbs, the Chinese media outlets were designated as foreign government missions.
The restrictions were placed on the official Xinhua news agency; China Global Television Network (CGTN); China Radio International; China Daily Distribution Corp., owner of the China Daily, a Communist Party of China outlet; and Hai Tian Development USA that represents the official People’s Daily, flagship Party newspaper.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a speech last week to U.S. governors, warned that China’s Communist Party is exploiting the United States’ free and open system for political and economic gain. China is not providing equal access to its society by Americans, he noted.
“President Trump has talked about reciprocity in trade,” Mr. Pompeo said. “We should have reciprocity in all things. Today they have free rein in our system, and we’re completely shut out from theirs.”
The State Department official said the five Chinese outlets “all meet the definition of a foreign mission under the Foreign Missions Act, which is to say that they are ‘substantially owned or effectively controlled’ by a foreign government. In this case, they are effectively controlled by the government of the People’s Republic of China.”
The designation means that the news organizations must follow administrative requirements that apply to foreign embassies and consulates, including limits on travel and other activities.
“At this time, they must inform the State Department of their personnel rosters as well as their real estate holdings,” the official said.
U.S. intelligence officials have said that Chinese news outlets are used frequently by Chinese intelligence agencies as cover for operatives.
The annual report of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission said China is expanding its foreign influence operations around the world.
“China continued its efforts to coerce or interfere in the domestic affairs of countries acting in ways contrary to its interests, detaining foreign citizens and carrying out an extensive influence campaign targeting foreign universities, media, and the Chinese diaspora,” the report said.
The media restrictions follow earlier measures that required some Chinese media entities in the United States to register with the Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
In 2011, then-Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, introduced legislation that would impose media reciprocity on China.
The bill would have limited the number of visas to state-controlled foreign media, including those in China, but did not pass.