Washington [US], July 17 (ANI): Non-profit organizations and charities have raised concern over donor privacy laws in the US as China targets overseas dissenters.
Jianli Yang, writing in Real Clear Policy said that donor privacy in the United States is a life or death matter as they can face extreme consequences when they are identified by the Chinese government.
On April 13, 2021, the Chinese government forced a businessman named Lee to appear on its central TV station and confess to a “crime” for which he was sentenced to 11 years in prison. His crime? Financially supporting Citizen Power Initiatives for China, a pro-democracy movement based in the United States and registered as a non-profit organization with the Internal Revenue Service.
Jianli is the founder and president of Citizen Power Initiatives for China. July 1, 2022 marked the one-year anniversary of the US Supreme Court’s decision in Americans for Prosperity Foundation vs Bonta.
Regarded as one of the most important donor privacy cases in over 60 years, the ruling affirmed that all Americans should have the ability to exercise their First Amendment rights privately.
Prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Americans for Prosperity Foundation vs Bonta last summer, several states demanded that non-profits turn over their donor lists as a condition of registration and fundraising.
In California, those lists were carelessly published online. The Supreme Court’s decision brought an end to that practice – for now. However, some politicians and activists across the United States continue to press for the disclosure of non-profit donor and member lists despite the Court’s pro-privacy decision.
“It is no exaggeration to say that privacy is a matter of life and death for our members and donors as well as for our organization itself. Our work would be unsustainable without the ability to shield our supporters. The same is true for many other important causes supported by non-profits throughout the United States,” said Jianli.
Jianli, expressing his concern over the safety of donors said that he Citizen Power Initiatives for China in 2008 to advance human rights and a peaceful transition to democracy in China.
“Unsurprisingly, our supporters, including those in America, can face extreme consequences when they are identified by the Chinese government. As a result, the privacy of our members is paramount to our organization’s survival,” said Jianli.
“Yet increasingly, our privacy is threatened by lawmakers in the US If successful, their efforts would silence many voices and put brave people in danger,” he added.
US lawmakers are of the view that charitable donations decision was sweeping, but it could erode disclosure laws concerning political campaigns, too.
They said it chilled the groups’ ability to raise money and subjected donors to possible harassment. Jianli further shared his horrid experience which he faced while challenging Chinese oppression.
“In the spring of 1989, I joined thousands of my fellow students in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square to protest for democracy. On June 4, I watched in horror as government soldiers slaughtered thousands of peaceful demonstrators by firing at them with machine guns and rolling over them with tanks. I was among the fortunate who survived,” said Jianli.
Since then, as a student at UC Berkeley and later Harvard University, Jianli frequently testified before the US Congress, made appearances on television, and gave lectures on college campuses around the world. He engaged in discussions with American leaders on US-China policy and led a project that produced a draft constitution for a democratic China.
“The Chinese government deemed me a traitor for my work and forbade me from entering the country. In the spring of 2002, I defied the entry ban to support grassroots activists in China’s industrial northeast. Two weeks later, I was imprisoned,”said Jianli.
For five years, he was detained in a Chinese prison, often in solitary confinement. Jianli’s mental health deteriorated under the weight of prolonged isolation, repeated interrogations, and endless psychological and physical torture.
“In 2007, thanks to overwhelming international support, I was freed and returned to the United States. Since then, I have recommitted myself to the hard work of advancing human rights and democracy in China. That work places me, and my organization, directly in the crosshairs of the Chinese government,” said Jianli.
In 2019, the Chinese Foreign Ministry smeared Citizen Power Initiatives for China as a hostile foreign force. Danger has also extended to other financial supporters, like Lee. A few other major contributors halted their support after learning the Chinese government had discovered their donations.
Most people who want to support, including those living in the US, have some connection to China through their family, friends, or business. China has a long arm to harass and surveil overseas Chinese dissenters.
Public exposure of supporters’ identities by federal or state agencies in the United States would enable the Chinese government and others acting on its behalf to more easily threaten and harass supporters. Many people in the US have demurred from supporting our cause because of these fears, said Jianli.
He expressed that such stories will give pause to politicians in the United States who seek to force non-profits to publicly expose their supporters when speaking on matters of public concern. (ANI)