Job Description: Chinese Communist Party United Front Work Department

The role of the United Front Work Department of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee in foreign affairs work was adjusted in 2018 to give it the leadership and coordination role of Communist Party and PRC state work in contacting individual Overseas Chinese [Chinese citizens] and their relatives and their organizations. A 2018 Chinese Communist Party document defines the scope of United Front Work Department’s tasks outside China.

Begin translation

United Front Work Department Role From Part 15 of Adjustment in PRC Central Committee “Plan for Deepening Reform of Party and State Organizations” (March 2018)

The Central United Front Work Department comprehensively manages overseas Chinese affairs. In order to strengthen the Party’s centralized and unified leadership over overseas united front work and to better unify and coordinate work with Overseas Chinese and Returned Overseas Chinese now residing in China as well as their relatives and so that mass organizations can more effectively carry out their role, the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council has been folded into the United Front Work Department of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee. The United Front Work Department continues to do business overseas under the name of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council. After this adjustment, the main duties of the Central United Front Work Department in overseas Chinese affairs are to

  • Take the overall lead in overseas united front work;
  • Manage administrative matters in Overseas Chinese affairs;
  • Formulate policies and plans for overseas Chinese affairs;
  • Investigate and study the situation of Overseas Chinese both inside and outside of China and the state of work on Overseas Chinese affairs;
  • Take charge of overall planning and coordination of the work of the related departments and social organizations relating to Overseas Chinese;
  • Maintain contact with Hong Kong, Macao and related overseas organizations and representative persons;
  • Guide and promote propaganda work relating to the Overseas Chinese;
  • Promote cultural exchanges and Chinese language education etc.

The responsibilities of maintaining friendly contact etc. with overseas Chinese and overseas Chinese associations formerly assigned to the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council are assigned to the Chinese Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese. The Federation will serve as a transmission belt for the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese government in contact with the vast number of returned overseas Chinese, their relatives and overseas Chinese residing abroad.

The separate office of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council is abolished.

End translation

(十五)中央统战部统一管理侨务工作。为加强党对海外统战工作的集中统一领导,更加广泛地团结联系海外侨胞和归侨侨眷,更好发挥群众团体作用,将国务院侨务办公室并入中央统战部。中央统战部对外保留国务院侨务办公室牌子。 调整后,中央统战部在侨务方面的主要职责是,统一领导海外统战工作,管理侨务行政事务,负责拟订侨务工作政策和规划,调查研究国内外侨情和侨务工作情况,统筹协调有关部门和社会团体涉侨工作,联系香港、澳门和海外有关社团及代表人士,指导推动涉侨宣传、文化交流和华文教育工作等。 国务院侨务办公室海外华人华侨社团联谊等职责划归中国侨联行使,发挥中国侨联作为党和政府联系广大归侨侨眷和海外侨胞的桥梁纽带作用。 不再保留单设的国务院侨务办公室。

When I did this translation of section 15 relating to the United Front Work Department and their role in contacting and working with Overseas Chinese (defined as Chinese citizens living abroad), Chinese foreign residents who have returned to China and the families, I got into a tangle and wondered just broadly is ‘family of Chinese citizens abroad” not necessarily themselves Chinese citizens construed?  

I found an unfamiliar term 侨眷 qiaojuan. Qiaojuan refers to the relatives of Overseas Chinese. That term is defined in the PRC Law to Protect the Rights of Returned Overseas Chinese and their Relatives   《中华人民共和国归侨侨眷权益保护法》[copied below] as the parents, spouses, children and their spouses, brothers and sisters, grandparents and grandchildren as well as other relatives in a long-term adoptive relationship with Overseas Chinese or Returned Overseas Chinese. 

Challenge and Response

New Zealand: China Scholar Anne-Marie Brady on United Front Work Outside China and in New Zealand

Anne-Marie Brady, a long-time scholar of Chinese Communist Party United Front Work recently made a presentation to the New Zealand Parliament Justice Select Committee Inquiry into Foreign Interference

1. Efforts to control the Chinese diaspora

The CCP adopts a carrot and stick approach to those it targets within the Chinese diaspora community: financial opportunities and honours for those who cooperate; harassment, denial of passport or visa rights, and detention for family members living in China for those who do not. In the Xi era the most heavily policed sector of the Chinese diaspora are the Uighurs living abroad; along with Tibetans and activists from the Han Chinese community. New Zealand currently has a population of around 200,000 citizens and permanent residents who identify as Han Chinese, as well as smaller numbers of other ethnic groups within China, such as Tibetans and Uighurs.

Some of the key agencies: the CCP United Front Work Department and within it the State Council Overseas Chinese Office, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of State Security, PLA military intelligence, Chinese People’s Consultative Conference, the Zhigong Party, the China Association for Promoting Democracy, the Federation of Industry and Commerce, and the so-called “democratic” parties within the CCP-led political system whose main function is united front work.

Read Professor Brady’s entire presentation at which include a discussion of the history and nature of United Front work, Chinese Communist Party interference in New Zealand’s internal affairs and how New Zealand might improve its resilience to such efforts.

Australia: Former China Correspondent and Australian government advisor John Garnaut on United Front Work in Australia

John Garnaut’s August 2018 article “Australia’s China reset” published August 2018 in The Monthly lays it all out.  Here are three paragraphs.  Read the entire article online at

Reports have shown that the CCP is systematically silencing critics in Australia and co-opting Chinese-language media here to present favourable views. The party is “astroturfing” grassroots political movements to give the impression of Chinese community support for Beijing’s policies and leaders, while drowning out opponents. CCP-linked organisations are crowding out independent opportunities for ethnic Chinese political representation. They are channelling business and other professional opportunities to retired politicians and other influential Australians.

In 2015 the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) reportedly warned the major political parties that two of Australia’s most generous donors had “strong connections to the Chinese Communist Party” and that their “donations might come with strings attached”. In December 2017, an unsourced report in The Australian said ASIO had identified candidates at state and local government elections whom it believed had close ties to Chinese intelligence services “in what security officials assess as a deliberate strategy by Beijing to wield influence through Australian politics”. Most notoriously, a Labor Party senator, Sam Dastyari, was forced to retire after Fairfax Media revealed that he had recited Beijing’s South China Sea talking points while standing alongside a Chinese citizen donor – and then counselled the donor to place his phone aside to avoid surveillance of their conversation.

CCP interference reportedly grew so blatant that party officials used their arbitrary power over Australian prisoners in China and their capacity to influence elections in Australia as sources of diplomatic leverage. According to The Australian, China’s security chief, Meng Jianzhu, warned the Labor leadership about the electoral consequences of failing to endorse a bilateral extradition treaty: “Mr Meng said it would be a shame if Chinese government representatives had to tell the Chinese community in Australia that Labor did not support the relationship between Australia and China.”

Canada:  Concerns About Chinese Interference in Canadian Domestic Affairs and Rethinking China Policy

The National Post in January 2018: “How China uses shadowy United Front as ‘magic weapon’ to try to extend its influence in Canada — Its activities include influencing the Chinese diaspora to back China, co-opting foreign political and economic elites and promoting Beijing’s agenda worldwide”

Former Canadian Ambassador to China David Mulroney April 30, 2019 opinion piece “With lives at stake, Canada’s misguided vision of China demands a careful reboot published recently in The Globe and Mail argued that Canada needs to reconsider its China policy.

PRC Law to Protect the Rights of Returned Overseas Chinese and Their Families

    (1990年9月7日第七届全国人民代表大会常务委员会第十五次会议通过 自1991年1月1日起施行 根据2000年10月31日第九届全国人民代表大会常务委员会第十八次会议《关于修改〈中华人民共和国归侨侨眷权益保护法〉的决定》修正)

    第一条 为了保护归侨、侨眷的合法的权利和利益,根据宪法,制定本法。
    第二条 归侨是指回国定居的华侨。华侨是指定居在国外的中国公民。
    第三条 归侨、侨眷享有宪法和法律规定的公民的权利,并履行宪法和法律规定的公民的义务,任何组织或者个人不得歧视。国家根据实际情况和归侨、侨眷的特点,给予适当照顾,具体办法由国务院或者国务院有关主管部门规定。
    第四条 县级以上各级人民政府及其负责侨务工作的机构,组织协调有关部门做好保护归侨、侨眷的合法权益的工作。
    第五条 国家对回国定居的华侨给予安置。
    第六条 全国人民代表大会和归侨人数较多地区的地方人民代表大会应当有适当名额的归侨代表。
    第七条 归侨、侨眷有权依法申请成立社会团体,进行适合归侨、侨眷需要的合法的社会活动。 归侨、侨眷依法成立的社会团体的财产受法律保护,任何组织或者个人不得侵犯。
    第八条 中华全国归国华侨联合会和地方归国华侨联合会代表归侨、侨眷的利益,依法维护归侨、侨眷的合法权益。
    第九条 国家对安置归侨的农场、林场等企业给予扶持,任何组织或者个人不得侵占其合法使用的土地,不得侵犯其合法权益。在安置归侨的农场、林场等企业所在的地方,可以根据需要合理设置学校和医疗保健机构,国家在人员、设备、经费等方面给予扶助。
    第十条 国家依法维护归侨、侨眷职工的社会保障权益。用人单位及归侨、侨眷职工应当依法参加当地的社会保险,缴纳社会保险费用。
    第十一条 国家鼓励和引导归侨、侨眷依法投资兴办产业,特别是兴办高新技术企业,各级人民政府应当给予支持,其合法权益受法律保护。
    第十二条 归侨、侨眷在国内兴办公益事业,各级人民政府应当给予支持,其合法权益受法律保护。
    第十三条 国家依法保护归侨、侨眷在国内私有房屋的所有权。
    第十四条 各级人民政府应当对归侨、侨眷就业给予照顾,提供必要的指导和服务。归侨学生、归侨子女和华侨在国内的子女升学,按照国家有关规定给予照顾。
    第十五条 国家保护归侨、侨眷的侨汇收入。
    第十六条 归侨、侨眷有权接受境外亲友的遗赠或者赠与。
    第十七条 归侨、侨眷与境外亲友的往来和通讯受法律保护。
    第十八条 归侨、侨眷申请出境,有关主管部门应当在规定期限内办理手续。归侨、侨眷确因境外直系亲属病危、死亡或者限期处理境外财产等特殊情况急需出境的,有关主管部门应当根据申请人提供的有效证明优先办理手续。
    第十九条 国家保障归侨、侨眷出境探亲的权利。
    第二十条 归侨、侨眷可以按照国家有关规定申请出境定居,经批准出境定居的,任何组织或者个人不得损害其合法权益。 离休、退休、退职的归侨、侨眷职工出境定居的,其离休金、退休金、退职金、养老金照发。
    第二十一条 归侨、侨眷申请自费出境学习、讲学的,或者因经商出境的,其所在单位和有关部门应当提供便利。
    第二十二条 国家对归侨、侨眷在境外的正当权益,根据中华人民共和国缔结或者参加的国际条约或者国际惯例,给予保护。
    第二十三条 归侨、侨眷合法权益受到侵害时,被侵害人有权要求有关主管部门依法处理,或者向人民法院提起诉讼。归国华侨联合会应当给予支持和帮助。
    第二十四条 国家机关工作人员玩忽职守或者滥用职权,致使归侨、侨眷合法权益受到损害的,其所在单位或者上级主管机关应当责令改正或者给予行政处分;构成犯罪的,依法追究刑事责任。
    第二十五条 任何组织或者个人侵害归侨、侨眷的合法权益,造成归侨、侨眷财产损失或者其他损害的,依法承担民事责任;构成犯罪的,依法追究刑事责任。
    第二十六条 违反本法第九条第一款规定,非法占用安置归侨的农场、林场合法使用的土地,有关主管部门应当责令退还;造成损失的,依法承担赔偿责任。
    第二十七条 违反本法第十三条规定,非法侵占归侨、侨眷在国内私有房屋的,有关主管部门应当责令退还;造成损失的,依法承担赔偿责任。
    第二十八条 违反本法第二十条第二款规定,停发、扣发、侵占或者挪用出境定居的归侨、侨眷的离休金、退休金、退职金、养老金的,有关单位或者有关主管部门应当责令补发,并依法给予赔偿;对直接负责的主管人员和其他直接责任人员,依法给予行政处分;构成犯罪的,依法追究刑事责任。
    第二十九条 国务院根据本法制定实
    施办法。省、自治区、直辖市的人民代表大会常 务委员会可以根据本法和国务院的实施办法,制定实施办法。
    第三十条 本法自1991年1月1日起施行。

About 高大伟 David Cowhig

After retirement translated,with wife Jessie, Liao Yiwu's 2019 "Bullets and Opium", and have been studying things 格物致知. Worked 25 years as a US State Department Foreign Service Officer including ten years at US Embassy Beijing and US Consulate General Chengdu and four years as a China Analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Before State I translated Japanese and Chinese scientific and technical books and articles into English freelance for six years. Before that I taught English at Tunghai University in Taiwan for three years. And before that I worked two summers on Norwegian farms, milking cows and feeding chickens.
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