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August 27, 2019

United Front Work Department’s Austrian Chapter Registers as a Foreign NGO in China

The Austria-China Peaceful Reunification Promotion Association (奥地利中国和平统一促进会) registered a representative office in China on May 29, 2019. This is particularly noteworthy not only because it is the first Austrian group to register an office under the auspices of the Foreign NGO Law, but also because it is affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party’s (C.C.P.’s) United Front Work Department. The United Front is the C.C.P. agency responsible for managing relationships with elite Chinese individuals and organizations inside and outside of China.

According to information on the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) website, the Association’s office in China works to “unite Chinese in Austria with Austrians friendly to China and promote the peaceful reunification of the motherland.” The MPS also notes that the Association’s work is a response to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, promoting cultural, economic, and trade exchanges between China, Austria, and neighboring European countries. Its chief representative, Pan Yizhu, is also the executive vice president of the Austrian-Chinese Business Exchange Association and secretary general of the Austrian China Peaceful Reunification Promotion Association, according to the European Times, a Chinese-language newspaper in Europe. The Hunan province Overseas Chinese Affairs Office serves as the Association’s Professional Supervisory Unit. The Association is permitted to operate in Hunan province only, and its office is located in the Changsha High-Tech Zone.

When meeting government officials in Hunan in May, a representative of the Association said that the establishment of the office would promote bilateral cooperation in agriculture, as well as help organize exchanges that pave the way for cultural and economic cooperation between the Hunan High-Tech Zone and Austria. Hunan Public Security Bureau representatives said the Association would promote economic and trade exchanges between the province and Austria. Hunan officials traveled to Austria in March to meet with representatives of overseas Chinese organizations, including the Association, expressing hope that the establishment of the Association’s Hunan office would help Austrian companies accelerate their entry into Hunan.

The Association is a member of a larger overseas federation under the China Council for the Promotion of Peaceful National Reunification (PPNR) (中国和平统一促进会), which was founded in 1988 and has more than 170 chapters across the world. PPNR’s mission is to carry out cross-strait civil exchanges, mobilizing overseas Chinese to promote reunification between mainland China and Taiwan. Wang Yang, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the C.C.P. Central Committee and chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), is the chairman of the PPNR.

According to the Austria-China Peaceful Reunification Promotion Association’s website, which is no longer operational but is available on the Internet Archive, the organization was founded in 2001, and its president was (and still is) Yao Longwei. Activities the organization posted on its website include:

  • Holding a symposium focused on the annual meetings of the National People’s Congress and the CPPCC
  • Holding a symposium to learn the spirit of former CPPCC Chairman Yu Zhengsheng’s speech on the 70th anniversary of Taiwan returning to Chinese jurisdiction
  • Hosting a Vienna Peace Forum to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the victory of the Anti-Japanese War
  • Holding a special informational session on the Diaoyu Islands
  • Organizing a symposium to celebrate the 18th National Congress
  • Organizing protests against the Dalai Lama’s visits to Vienna
  • Holding a number of events to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the peaceful liberation of Tibet

These activities suggests a political agenda of promoting reunification between mainland China and Taiwan. In April of this year, the Association liaised with its sister chapters in Europe to organize the local Chinese community to study the speech Xi Jinping gave at the 40th anniversary of the “Message to Compatriots in Taiwan.” In 2018, it joined other federated members of the Council to Promote the Peaceful Reunification of China throughout the world to resolutely oppose “Taiwan independence” after the 2018 Taiwanese local elections.

Representatives of the Association have also paid visits to local Chinese officials in response to the Belt and Road Initiative. In February, they met with officials from the city of Quzhou, in Zhejiang province, talking about deepening exchanges and cooperation in culture, education, tourism, and healthcare between Quzhou and Austria. In June, representatives of the Association, along with business people and government officials, attended a meeting with their visiting counterparts from Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. The Region’s Chairman, Chen Wu, expressed hope that Guangxi and Austria would “grasp the opportunities brought about by the Belt and Road Initiative” and expand economic, trade, investment, tourism, and new energy cooperation between Guangxi and Austria.

The MPS encouraged foreign NGOs to take part in China’s Belt and Road Initiative in a 2017 meeting, and public security officials have mentioned the initiative at certain foreign NGOs’ registration ceremonies.

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