According to recent filings, the DOJ has ordered the U.S. subsidiary of a Hong Kong-based Chinese-language newspaper to register as a foreign agent.
The DOJ has determined that Sing Tao U.S., whose parent company owns the Sing Tao Daily newspaper in Hong Kong, is engaged in “political activity” under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA.
Sing Tao has stated that it does not consider itself a foreign agent because it is not “controlled nor influenced” by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The move comes after Hong Kong businessman Charles Ho sold his stake in the Kaisa Group in June to Kwok Hiu-Ting, daughter of mainland real estate developer Kwok Ying-Shing, for H.K. $370 million.
Foreign agents must register under FARA if they are deemed by Washington to be promoting foreign influence in the country, or if they are owned by or acting on behalf of foreign governments or organizations.
The registration requires them to file updated details of their activities on US soil every six months, as well as details of payments received from overseas and made to others.
According to the filings, Sing Tao U.S. received nearly US $3.8 million weeks before its first registration and commands a budget of US $9.8 million for its news operation.
More than half of Sing Tao’s content in the United States is syndicated copy produced by Star Production, a company based in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen.
China Radio International (CRI), a state-owned international broadcaster, has also recently been registered as a foreign agent in the United States.
The former assistant editor-in-chief of Hong Kong’s pro-China Commercial Daily, Joseph Long, said it is a fairly open secret among city journalists that the Sing Tao Daily is a CCP-linked organization.
Long told RFA, “It’s a fairly open secret that it’s an underground CCP organization.” “Based on my understanding of the CCP system and Sing Tao, I can confidently state that some people who have taken on the functions of the United Front Work Department also do United Front work among the Chinese community in the United States.”
The RFA was unable to independently confirm Long’s claim. However, an online search of company records revealed that, since the change of ownership, at least two of the company’s directors have served on the committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), an advisory body to the rubber-stamp National People’s Congress (NPC).
According to an industry source, the US move made sense given that the Kaisa group is a “white glove operation” with the full power of the CCP behind it.
Long agreed, claiming that the Kaisa Group was a cover operation for the CCP’s media operations.
At the time of writing on Friday, the Sing Tao News Group had not responded to RFA’s requests for comment.
On its homepage, the paper’s website published a three-point statement stating that the company’s five U.S. subsidiaries had recently registered as foreign agents in accordance with FARA.
“As a media organization, Sing Tao will uphold the mission of reporting objective facts and high-quality content, as well as providing readers with neutral and unbiased news reports,” the company stated.
The Sing Tao Daily is one of Hong Kong’s oldest newspapers, having been established in 1938 by Aw Boon Haw, a wealthy overseas Chinese businessman.
Faced with financial difficulties, his daughter Sally Aw sold the controlling stake to a Lazard private equity fund in 1999. It was bought out by Charles Ho’s publicly traded company, Global China Technology Group, in 2001.
According to another source, Sing Tao News Corp. has made the majority of its money in recent years in overseas markets, particularly in the American Chinese community, where it is extremely influential.
Its reporters may now face difficulties obtaining press credentials to cover Congress.