Dem Congressman Who Pushed China Divestment Kept His Own Chinese Investments

Vicente Gonzalez also kept up to $250,000 in a Bank of China account between 2017 and 2020

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March 12, 2021

A Democratic congressman who pushed for U.S. divestment from China failed to get rid of his own investments in the authoritarian country.

Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D., Texas) introduced a bill in September to "reduce America’s dependence on China" by supporting domestic production of rare earth minerals, key resources for advanced electronics that China has a global monopoly on. But even as Gonzalez urged Americans to distance themselves from China, the congressman held up to $50,000 in shares of HSBC—the Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corporation—and kept up to $100,000 in a HSBC bank account, according to his 2020 financial disclosures.

"Ending our dependence on China starts today," Gonzalez said in a press release accompanying the bill. "The RARE Act will allow the United States to develop a reliable domestic supply of critical minerals and rare earth elements and eliminate this pressure point that could have lasting impacts on our national security and most importantly, our way of life."

While it moved its headquarters from Hong Kong to London in the 1990s, HSBC continues to source more than half of its global profits and one-third of its global revenue from Hong Kong. The company’s dependency on China has made it a close ally of the Chinese regime. HSBC backed a controversial national security bill in 2020 that human-rights observers say crippled the city's fragile democracy.

Gonzalez also kept up to $250,000 in a Bank of China account between 2017 and 2020, according to the financial disclosures. Bank of China is one of the largest banks in the country and is directly controlled by the Chinese government. Gonzalez’s spokesman said the Bank of China account "no longer exists" but did not comment on the status of the congressman’s HSBC investments.

"Congressman Gonzalez has fully complied with disclosure requirements for this investment," the spokesman said.

Gonzalez is not the only U.S. official under scrutiny for business ties to China. Senators grilled U.N. ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield about a paid speech she gave for the Chinese government-controlled Confucius Institute during her confirmation hearing, while Secretary of State Antony Blinken faced questions about his consulting firm WestExec's Chinese business dealings during his confirmation hearing. Hunter Biden, President Joe Biden's son, also received criticism for his business dealings in China during the Obama administration.

The Texan congressman's support for U.S. divestment from China is a new phenomenon. In 2018, Gonzalez traveled to China as part of a congressional delegation to promote closer trade ties with Beijing.

"Only by engaging with China can we secure fairer market access and intellectual property protections for businesses in the 15th district of Texas," the congressman said during the trip. "I look forward to continuing this dialogue and working with our two governments to expand economic opportunity for Central and South Texans."