Barbara Boxer: Lobbyist for China

Then-senator Barbara Boxer speaks during the Politicon convention in Pasadena, Calif., in 2016. (Patrick T. Fallon/Reuters)

Los Angeles Times columnist Mark Barabak has written a buzzy column featuring an interview with former senator Barbara Boxer. The longtime lawmaker, who retired in 2017, offered her thoughts on abortion, the filibuster, and the Supreme Court, as well as details about her life in retirement. “Thank God for Siri,” she told Barabak, who penned the very sympathetic profile about her post-Senate life.

What goes totally unmentioned in the piece is Boxer’s short stint last year as a foreign agent representing a Chinese video-surveillance firm implicated in mass atrocities.

The Daily Caller reported in January that Boxer registered to represent Hikvision, which was blacklisted by the Trump administration for its complicity in the Chinese Communist Party’s repression of Uyghurs. According to the filing she registered with the Department of Justice, her role would have been to “provide strategic counsel” to the company.

Presumably, Boxer’s expertise would have helped Hikvision to navigate the Trump-era regulatory minefield that barred U.S. entities from doing business with it. But Hikvision is no ordinary company. IPVM, a video-surveillance firm, has documented Hivision’s extensive complicity in developing the mass-surveillance state with which Beijing has orchestrated a genocide of Turkic minorities in Xinjiang. This includes, among many other things, Chinese government contracts with Hikvision to supply video-surveillance systems in the region’s concentration camps and the “Integrated Joint Operating Platform” used throughout the region.

So, naturally, her registration was a small scandal. Boxer registered as a foreign agent on January 8. After word got out, the Biden inaugural committee refunded a $500 donation by saying the donation violated its rules against taking money from foreign agents. Then, on January 12, Axios reported that Boxer would resign; she explained in a statement to the outlet:

My intent in agreeing to provide strategic advice to the company was based on my desire to help make them better in every way and preserve American jobs. However, due to the intense response to my registration, I have determined that my continued involvement has become a negative distraction for the effort so I will be deregistering.

Just a week after Boxer resigned, former secretary of state Mike Pompeo issued a determination that the Chinese government is perpetrating crimes against humanity and genocide in Xinjiang, a decision that his successor, Antony Blinken, swiftly endorsed. Well before that determination was implemented, Beijing’s Xinjiang atrocities were common knowledge and written about in frontpage stories.

Yet despite rising awareness of the Chinese Communist Party’s global assault on international order and human dignity, still too many former lawmakers — on both sides of the aisle — lobby for firms linked to Beijing’s military buildup and human-rights abuses. Money knows no partisan affiliation. Boxer deserves credit for deregistering, but she hasn’t expressed any regret for attempting to work with a firm complicitity in ongoing atrocities.

That disgraceful incident should be a permanent part of her legacy, too, and a prominent part of a profile of what she’s done in private life.

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