Exclusive: Senators revive bill to combat Chinese censorship of U.S. companies

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A bipartisan group of U.S. senators will revive legislation as soon as Wednesday to counter Chinese censorship in the United States, a new effort by Congress to hold Beijing accountable for its growing efforts to stifle criticism beyond its borders, Senator Jeff Merkley told Reuters.

U.S. officials have complained that the Chinese government has increasingly sought to suppress opposition to its ruling Communist Party by coercing U.S. companies – from hotel chains and airlines to Hollywood film producers – to take pro-Beijing stances.

“We must monitor and address the impacts of China’s censorship and intimidation of Americans and our companies, so we can create a strategy to safeguard this bedrock freedom and hold those accountable who suppress and destroy it,” Merkley, a Democrat leading the effort who will soon be chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, said in emailed comments.

El proyecto de ley está copatrocinado por los republicanos Marco Rubio y John Cornyn, así como por la demócrata Elizabeth Warren. En 2019 se presentó un proyecto de ley similar, pero se estancó.

The new censorship bill would direct the president to set up an interagency task force under the National Security Council to monitor and address China’s censorship or intimidation of Americans and U.S. companies.

It would mandate a report with recommendations for “industries in which freedom of expression issues are particularly acute, including the media and film industries,” according to a copy of the proposed legislation seen by Reuters.

The censorship bill is among a barrage of legislation to confront China, as deeply divided Democrats and Republicans in Congress find common ground opposing Beijing. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Tuesday he had directed lawmakers to craft a package of measures to counter China’s rise.

Former U.S. Attorney General William Barr said last year that Hollywood companies routinely caved to pressure and censored their films to “appease” China, which last year overtook the United States as the world’s largest film market. Entertainment companies did not respond to Barr’s allegations at the time.

National Basketball Association games were taken off the air in China for a year in 2019 following a tweet from a Houston Rockets manager backing Hong Kong democracy protests.

En 2018, el gobierno chino obligó a las aerolíneas y cadenas hoteleras mundiales a cambiar sus referencias en línea a Taiwán para dar a entender que la isla democrática autónoma es parte de China.


A Democratic Senate aide involved with the bill said drafters recognized it was a sensitive issue for companies, and did not want to make bad guys out of “victims of economic coercion.”

“We want to help provide focus in the U.S. government to address this problem,” the aide said. “In a certain sense, we are trying to help insulate companies from pressure rather than raise the temperature further.”

Algunos en el Congreso argumentan que un enfoque de grupo de trabajo no es suficiente y piden una respuesta más fuerte, como facilitar que los empleados estadounidenses presenten demandas si son despedidos debido a la presión de China, o exigir a las universidades estadounidenses que revelen los vínculos financieros con los Institutos Confucio. que son centros culturales respaldados por el gobierno chino.

Los aliados estadounidenses también han advertido sobre la censura china que se desarrolla en casa. Alemania dijo el martes que China había tratado de intimidar a los residentes de Hong Kong que viven en el país desde que estallaron las protestas a favor de la democracia en la ciudad hace dos años.

President Joe Biden, who has voiced concern about China’s “coercive and unfair” trade practices, and endorsed a Trump administration determination that China has committed genocide in its Xinjiang region, has signaled his administration will maintain pressure on Beijing.