China Influences Utah Lawmakers By Appealing To Mormonism: Report
Xi Jinping, China's president, during the unveiling of the Communist Party of China's new Politburo Standing Committee at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022. President Xi Jinping stacked China's most powerful body with his allies, giving him unfettered control over the world's second-largest economy.
Source: Bloomberg

A new investigative report published this week from the Associated Press found that China has been able to forge ties in Utah that have led to the communist nation scoring public relations and legislative victories in the state and from its lawmakers.

The report found that the Chinese “appealed” to the lawmaker’s ties to the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to win favor with them that they later used to score wins in a variety of areas, including delaying legislation that took action against Chinese propaganda, canceling resolutions that condemned China, and promoted false positive images of China. The report said the church has “long dreamed of expanding in China.”

“Utah is an important foothold,” said Frank Montoya Jr., a retired FBI counterintelligence agent who lives in the state. “If the Chinese can succeed in Salt Lake City, they can also make it in New York and elsewhere.”

Lawmakers delayed the closing of Chinese-funded Confucius Institutes, which are propaganda entities, at state universities by one year.

A letter exchange coordinated by a Chinese teacher in Utah resulted in fourth-grade students getting correspondence from Chinese President Xi Jinping thanking them for cards the teacher had them send him. The incident was used by Chinese state media to portray Xi as a warm grandfather figure when he is actually a brutal dictator who has forced tens of thousands into concentration camps. Some state lawmakers gushed over the cards that Xi sent the children, the report noted.

China’s civilian spy agency, the Ministry of State Security (MSS), has also been focused on Utah, the report said, noting that there have been multiple people convicted of spying for China in the state.

The report said that groups of up to a couple of dozen Utah lawmakers have been taking trips to China every other year since 2007 and they make remarks while visiting that are later used by state media for propaganda.


The report alleged that two men, Taowen Le, a Chinese professor who moved to the U.S. in the late 90s; and Dan Stephenson, the son of a former state senator and employee of a China-based consulting firm; were responsible for much of China’s increased activity in the state.

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