This week, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., continued his efforts to keep the Peace Corps out of China.
On Wednesday, Scott came out swinging at the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs appropriations bill which cleared the U.S House Appropriations Committee this week and is now heading to the House floor. Scott denounced the bill which includes a provision to keep the Peace Corps operating in China.
“The Peace Corps made the right decision to pull volunteers from Communist China – a wealthy nation and an adversary that doesn’t need help from American taxpayers. Now, the House Democrats want to kowtow to the Communist Party of China and send American volunteers and taxpayer dollars back to Communist China. That’s despicable. Communist China is one of the world’s worst human rights violators, steals our jobs and technology, is militarizing the South China Sea and is the cause of this global pandemic. Not one cent of American taxpayer dollars should be spent helping to prop up their dangerous government,” Scott said on Wednesday.
Scott sent a letter to Dr. Jody Olsen, the director of the Peace Corps, at the start of the year, asking for details on the plans to leave China.
“The Peace Corps has an honorable mission of promoting freedom and spreading American ideals to developing countries around the world. But the Peace Corps should not be propping up our adversaries with U.S. tax dollars, and that includes Communist China,” Scott wrote Olsen.
“Last year, I was shocked to learn that the Peace Corps is using American taxpayer dollars to send volunteers and resources to Communist China – a nation that continues to steal our jobs, technology and intellectual property, refuses to open up their markets, is militarizing the South China Sea, violates human rights and is imprisoning over one million Chinese citizens simply because of their religion.
“After this discovery, I met with your team to learn more about your mission in Communist China. I was wholly unsatisfied by the response and the lack of any return on investment for taxpayers, and subsequently called on the Peace Corps to remove all volunteers from China immediately. I also sponsored the Peace Corps Mission Accountability Act, which prohibits all Peace Corps activity in hostile countries, including Communist China,” Scott added. “I was adamant that the Peace Corps should stop sending volunteers to an adversary of the United States. At first, the Peace Corps called this political pressure, but finally, the Peace Corps agreed and announced this month that they are leaving Communist China. This is the right decision, and one that must be done without delay. I have since requested a meeting with you, but have not received a response.”
Scott had a series of questions for Olsen, asking for a detailed plan on the Peace Corps’ plan to leave China, asking for a timeline and how much funds can now be used to help other countries. He also asked whether the Peace Corps will aid other hostile nations.
“What policy changes will the Peace Corps implement to ensure that the agency no longer sends volunteers to nations hostile to the national security interests of the United States?” Scott asked. “It is important we do everything we can to protect both the American people and their taxpayer dollars, and I look forward to your quick response.”
As he noted in the letter, in recent months, Scott had been pushing the Peace Corps to leave China.
Back in July 2019, Olsen said she had no intention of ending operations in China, prompting Scott to weigh in.
“Peace Corps volunteers are charged with promoting freedom and spreading American ideals to developing countries across the globe. But what the Peace Corps shouldn’t be doing is propping up our adversaries with U.S. tax dollars. Let’s remember, China is a wealthy nation that certainly has the resources to fund initiatives. There is no reason the U.S. should be giving millions in foreign aid to China every year, and there is no reason American taxpayers should be sending volunteers to do the work of the Communist government of China,” Scott said last summer.
“China steals our technology and intellectual property, refuses to open up their markets, refuses to allow human rights and supports Maduro’s genocide in Venezuela. China is also militarizing the South China Sea and building its military to compete with the United States on the world stage. I’ve asked the Peace Corps to pull all volunteers and resources from China immediately, and I look forward to their swift cooperation,” he added.
Later that month, Scott introduced a bill sending the Peace Corps to the U.S. State Department and have its volunteers end activities in rival countries, including China. Scott introduced the “Peace Corps Mission Accountability Act” at the end of July 2019 which “will prohibit all Peace Corps activity in hostile countries” with the Florida Republican signaling out China.
“The Peace Corps has an honorable mission of promoting freedom and spreading American ideals to developing countries around the world. We want the Peace Corps to do good work across the globe – just not with our enemies like China,” Scott said. “The Peace Corps continues to use taxpayer dollars to support programs in places like China, which continues to steal our technology and intellectual property, refuses to open up their markets, is militarizing the South China Sea, violates human rights and supports Maduro’s genocide in Venezuela.
“The Peace Corps Mission Accountability Act provides the oversight necessary to make sure all Peace Corps activities are in line with our national security interests and in underdeveloped countries that truly need our help – not wealthy nations like China. This is about protecting both taxpayer money and the American people,” Scott added.
As of now, the Peace Corps is an independent agency in the executive branch of the federal government. Scott’s bill would have the director of the Peace Corps report to the U.S. Secretary of State. Under Scott’s bill, the Secretary of State would have to report to Congress about the Peace Corps on an annual basis.
In September, when Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas, Scott called on the Peace Corps to refocus its efforts there and stop its operations in China by October 1. But, at that time, the Peace Corps did not end efforts there.
“I’m disappointed that the Peace Corps ignored my request to get out of Communist China,” Scott said in October. “President Xi is a Communist dictator and human rights violator. Communist China is supporting Maduro’s genocide of young children in Venezuela, killing over a million of its own citizens a year with hazardous air pollution, and attacking religious freedom by detaining possibly more than one million Uyghurs, a Muslim ethnic minority group in China, in internment and re-education camps. There is no reason the Peace Corps should be using taxpayer dollars to prop up one of our greatest adversaries – a wealthy nation that can fund its own initiatives. Our friends in the Bahamas are still hurting, and it makes no sense that the Peace Corps would rather do the work of Communist China than help our neighbors in need.”
In 2018, Olsen celebrated the 25th anniversary of Peace Corps operations in China and insisted it played a vital role in bridging the two nations.
“At its heart, this program brings together people to share knowledge, world views, cultural riches and the values and shared aspirations of the American and Chinese peoples,” said Olsen. “We could not be prouder of our shared legacy, or more grateful for the friendship and collaboration of our Chinese partners.”
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com.