Other than one Chinese language newspaper, which happened upon a photo of him with a community leader, Hsu was a virtual unknown to the Chinese press in the United States.
Even now, after days of extensive media coverage, his background is the subject of debate in the Chinese community. He was born in Hong Kong, but his last name is spelled in typical Taiwanese style. In fact, despite their painstaking efforts, the Chinese media in the United States didn't get Hsu's Chinese name until local media in Hong Kong found it through public registration records. And another talking point among reporters is the source of Hsu's money and whether he's backed up by the governments of any Asian countries. But for want of sufficient evidence no stories have explored this.
The Chinese media also reviewed the fundraising records of Chinese American politicians and found some of them did get donations from Hsu. But nothing suggests that they received more than other politicians to whom he gave.
One thing is certain. Politicians, including those contending to be presidential candidates, are likely to examine the source of their funding more carefully than ever before. Already, many have returned money from Hsu and said they will look for other such hidden "time bombs."
It harkens some previous cases in which Asian donors were found crossing the line. These cases are also enumerated in stories in the Chinese media, as the community worries it might be targeted unfairly as has happened before.
Undoubtedly, Hsu's case will affect the reputation of the Chinese community, said Johnson Lee, chief consultant of the Chinese American Voters Association. "And I won't be surprized if Chinese donors are watched more closely than other people. If that happens, it could hurt the feelings of our donors and some of them may stop donating."
Compared to other minority groups, Chinese Americans' participation in the political world doesn't go back too long. In New York, a city where Chinese make up 4 percent of the entire population, the community didn't have its first elected official until 2001. As for fundraising, major contributions from Chinese donors have only become visible since the 1992 presidential election. But such new immigrants as those represented by people who were originally smuggled to this country from Fujian, a coastal province of China, didn't participate until 2000.
More and more politicians have realized the dollar and ballot power of these new immigrants. Major candidates started to woo the community in recent years. New York's Democratic Governor Eliot Spitzer raked in $80,000 from a fundraising event hosted by Fujianese organizations. Hillary Clinton collected $400,000 at another event.
"We get more and more citizens now, and people also realize their donations and their votes do count. It's sometimes the only way to get their voices to be heard by decision makers," said Jimmy Cheng, vice president of the United Fujianese American Association.
"I hope mainstream society realizes that many of us work very hard to make our money and make small donations of $10, $15 to the candidates we think can represent our interests. The last thing I want to see is these law abiding donors suffer because of one individual case."
There is no sign yet that Asian donors have already been singled out for scrutiny, but these concerns may not be unfounded. When John Huang, former fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee, was associated with illegal contributions, the DNC called its Asian-American donors to enquire about personal information including their citizenship, income and employment.
"Chinese Americans have never been treated as Americans," said New York council member John Liu.
Whether we like to admit it or not, race does still play a role in these situations. The best we can hope for from the Hsu affair is that it doesn't lead to a witch hunt as happened in the Huang case.
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Albion Monitor September
17, 2007 (http://www.albionmonitor.com)
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