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Splendid mess


You probably know that Florida Splendid China is not the busiest attraction in town. And you've heard that it is owned and run by the Chinese government, basically as a soft-sell propaganda organ. But if you want the whole dark story (and maybe a bit more), see the piece by Kenneth Timmerman in the March issue of the American Spectator.

Be warned: The Spectator dwells on the conservative reactionary fringe. But though its prose is blustery and its reasoning often skewed, the mag has more than 250,000 readers. And as the Senate Intelligence Committee opens hearings into alleged Chinese espionage, Splendid China may come under increasing scrutiny.

The Spectator story connects the dots, from founder Josephine Chen's idea for a cultural center to the Chinese government's hostile 1993 buyout of Chen, to the 42 defections that occurred before 1995, to the propaganda mission outlined in Chinese Communist Party documents, and their supposed link to the park.

The piece relies in part on Jack Churchward, a convert to Tibetan Buddhism who has organized rallies and a boycott of the park over China's oppression of its ethnic minorities. (His next demonstration at the park's entrance is March 13.) Churchward helps maintain a website for Citizens Against Chinese Communist Propaganda, which argues that Splendid China's corporate parent, China Travel Services (Holdings) of Hong Kong, ought to register with the U.S. Justice Department as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938.

"We know nothing about that," says park president Sonny Yang. "I'm just the operator of the park. No one told me nothing about that." Actually, the law is pretty clear, but a call to the Justice Department went unreturned at press time.