China Accuses U.S. of Harassing Crewmembers About CPC Membership

File image courtesy Buonasera / CC BY-SA 3.0

Published Nov 30, 2020 2:12 PM by The Maritime Executive

China's foreign ministry has accused U.S. law enforcement officials of harassing the crews of Chinese vessels during port calls in the United States. According to state-owned China Daily, American officials have boarded Chinese vessels upon arrival to question the crewmembers about whether they are members of the Communist Party of China (CPC) - a line of inquiry rarely pursued in other port states. 

"Over a period of time, law enforcement officials of relevant U.S. departments have repeatedly raided the crew of Chinese ships, questioned and inspected the crew of many Chinese flights to the United States, repeatedly fixating on their CPC membership. Such actions incite ideological antagonism and undermine normal personnel exchanges between China and the United States," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying on Monday. "This is a serious political provocation against the Chinese side. It is also another manifestation of the resurgence of McCarthyism and the full-on containment and suppression against China by the U.S. anti-China forces."

Foreign ministry sources told China Daily that American officials and "unidentified plainclothes personnel" have boarded more than 20 Chinese ships in recent months, with the activity peaking in October. All were owned by state-owned shipping conglomerate COSCO and heavy-lift ship operator Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries (ZPMC). 

Hua called on American officials to "immediately stop the erroneous acts, stop stoking ideological antagonism, and stop unjustified crack-down on China." She promised Chinese countermeasures if the inspections should escalate. 

The CPC has about 90 million members, making it one of the largest political parties in the world. Membership conveys valuable career advantages in both the public and private sector in China, according to American researcher Bruce Dickson, and less than 10 percent of members are directly employed by the Chinese government. Members are far more likely than non-members to rise to high-level positions in state-owned enterprises and other government-controlled institutions.