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Lawmakers Urge Biden Admin to Investigate Chinese-Backed Drone Advocacy Group

Two GOP lawmakers are calling on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate an advocacy group allegedly funded by a Chinese drone manufacturer for possible violation of U.S. law.

In a letter dated May 21 to Attorney General Merrick Garland, Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) and John Moolenaar (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), raised concerns about the Drone Advocacy Alliance for its alleged lobbying efforts against legislation that would ban Chinese DJI drones in the United States.

“CCP-controlled drone company DJI is sponsoring and using the Drone Advocacy Alliance to market DJI drones as critical lifesaving tools that do not pose risks to U.S. national security. However, the opposite is the case. DJI is directly facilitating genocidal crimes, arming the Chinese military, and advancing the strategic objectives of the CCP, an adversary that threatens U.S. national security,” the letter reads.

The lawmakers said the group promotes DJI interests and should be registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

Enacted in 1938, FARA aims to ensure transparency in the activities of individuals and organizations acting on behalf of foreign governments, political parties, and other foreign principals. FARA mandates registration with the DOJ and regular disclosure of activities, funding, and expenditures. The law aims to prevent covert foreign influence in American politics and safeguard national security.

According to its website, the Drone Advocacy Alliance is sponsored and maintained by DJI. However, the group states it “does not endorse one drone manufacturer over another, and its partners represent a wide variety of industry stakeholders.”Related StoriesGOP Lawmakers Propose Bill to Boost US Drone Industry, Hike Tariffs on Chinese Drones5/16/2024GOP Lawmakers Propose Bill to Boost US Drone Industry, Hike Tariffs on Chinese DronesBipartisan Lawmakers Call on Biden Administration for Stricter Tariffs on Chinese Drones3/23/2024Bipartisan Lawmakers Call on Biden Administration for Stricter Tariffs on Chinese DronesIn March, the Countering CCP Drones Act and Foreign Adversary Communications Transparency (FACT) Act were advanced through the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Both legislations prohibit DJI’s technologies from operating on U.S. communication and telecommunication infrastructures.In the letter, the lawmakers pointed out that Washington confirmed that CCP-controlled drones pose national security risks. For example, in 2017, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed that DJI collected sensitive infrastructure and law enforcement data and provided them to the CCP. 

“Americans deserve heightened transparency when entities are lobbying Congress and the public in a campaign to prop up a CCP spy tool that facilitates genocide and arms the PLA [Chinese military],” the lawmakers said, urging Mr. Garland “to review the Drone Advocacy Alliance’s activities for potential FARA filing requirements.”

Last week, Ms. Stefanik also introduced legislation titled “Drones for First Responders (DFR) Act” to target Chinese drones by imposing more tariffs on China-made drones and establish a grant program from tariff revenue to support first responders, critical infrastructure providers, farmers, and ranchers in buying secure domestic- and allied-made drones.The Epoch Times has reached out to the Drone Advocacy Alliance for comment.DJI Under ScrutinyDJI is the world’s biggest drone manufacturer, with 70 percent of the global market share, according to Drone Industry Insights.

DJI has been under scrutiny from lawmakers as well as the Biden administration. The company has been blacklisted in a number of entity lists from the Departments of Treasury, Commerce, and Defense for posing threats to national security and alleged human rights violations.

In 2020, the Department of Commerce (DOC) added DJI to its entity list, accusing the company of enabling “wide-scale human rights abuses within China through abusive genetic collection and analysis or high-technology surveillance.” The DOC prohibits U.S. firms from exporting their technology to DJI unless they get a U.S. government export license.In 2021, the Department of Treasury also placed DJI on a list of entities for allegedly providing drones to authorities to track and surveil Muslim Uyghur minorities in China’s Xinjiang region, banning Americans from trading DJI stocks.Last month, many photos were shared on X, formerly Twitter, showing DJI-modified drones used by the Chinese military, even though the company claimed in 2022 that their products are not for military use.The Department of Defense currently lists DJI as a Chinese military company, which allows the DOC to restrict U.S. firms from doing business with or investing in the Chinese company.In 2017, Homeland Security warned that “since 2015, DJI has targeted a number of U.S. companies in the critical infrastructure and law enforcement sectors to market its UAS [uncrewed aircraft systems]” and “the Chinese government is likely using information acquired from DJI systems as a way to target assets.”

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