China uses WeChat to influence public opinion and spread misinformation in Texas and Florida: report

WeChat, whose content is tightly regulated by the Chinese Communist Party, has been used to peddle false information in Texas and Florida.  (Credits: AFP)

WeChat, whose content is tightly regulated by the Chinese Communist Party, has been used to peddle false information in Texas and Florida. (Credits: AFP)

WeChat was used to peddle misinformation and a biased narrative against legislation in Texas and Florida that sought to ban Chinese citizens from buying property in the two US states.

The Chinese Communist Party is using the WeChat platform and other means to try to influence public policy outcomes in Texas and Florida, a report has revealed.

A report in The Diplomat claimed the Chinese platform was being used to peddle misinformation and narrative against Texas legislation that sought to ban companies and citizens of countries like China from buying property in the US state.

Disinformation and false narrative have chained themselves in several Chinese and non-Chinese organizations and galvanized opposition to the bill leading to its amendment.

Republican Texas State Senator Lois Kolkhorst introduced SB147, a bill to ban companies and citizens from China, Russia, Iran and North Korea from buying land in the Texas in January. The bill received support from Texas Governor Greg Abbot.

The bill was triggered after a former Chinese military officer purchased 140,000 acres of land near Laughlin Air Force Base near Del Rio, Texas in 2021.

However, the next day, WeChat, whose content is regulated by the Chinese Communist Party, was flooded with misinformation about the legislation.

The report said the messaging platform was full of groups opposed to the SB147 legislation and was spreading a polarized narrative against the bill.

The groups prohibit balanced discussions and expel anyone who disagrees while promoting the most radical and anti-American voices.

Supporters of the bill have been branded “Chinese traitors” and encouraged users to sabotage pro-SB147 accounts by calling them spam, reporting them to the FBI as spies and even assaulting the users behind them, a he added.

Meanwhile, on the ground, organizations like the Asian Americans Leadership Council (AALC), whose leader Ling Luo is in contact with senior CCP officials, have mobilized opposition to the bill.

The efforts have also led other groups to galvanize opposition to the bill, even as the anti-SB147 effort has found supporters among Democratic Party politicians, including state Representative Gene Wu. and US Congresswoman Judy Chu.

Following the CCP’s efforts to galvanize opposition to the bill from Chinese speakers and non-Chinese organizations, protests erupted against the bill on January 29 in Dallas and February 11 in Houston.

This led Senator Lois Kolkhorst to amend the bill on March 1 to ensure it did not prevent dual citizens or lawful permanent residents from buying homes near military bases, according to the report.

A similar turn of events is also unfolding in Florida, which is also passing legislation similar to Texas’ SB147.

Earlier this month, the Florida Senate passed SB264, which prevents China and six other countries from buying or holding an interest in land near strategic sites.

The next day, groups emerged on WeChat with names such as “anti-SB264” or “anti new Chinese exclusion law” to oppose the bill. The groups falsely claimed that “anyone with a Chinese surname will be discriminated against when buying a home,” even though it does not discriminate against any U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident from buying land.

Meanwhile, WeChat Group administrators continue to mobilize people to petition, lobby, protest, speak to the media and attend state hearings to work against the bill, according to the report.

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