Former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, a Democrat who is challenging Arizona GOP senator Martha McSally this fall for her Senate seat, has been making noises about blaming China for suppressing information about the Wuhan coronavirus. But he has been much quieter regarding another issue involving China: The Chinese tech giant Tencent’s investment in World View Enterprises, a company Kelly cofounded.
Real Clear Politics (RCP) reports, “In the fall of 2014, the CEO of World View Enterprises, the company Kelly co-founded, announced during a visit to Beijing that Tencent had invested an undisclosed sum of money in the Tucson-based space travel venture. In April 2016, as part of a subsequent, $15 million investment round, World View announced that it had received more funds from Tencent, along with three other venture capital firms.”
Tencent owns the Chinese social media platform WeChat, which has been accused of monitoring its users’ activities. Tencent suspending streaming of National Basketball Association games after Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted, “Fight For Freedom Stand With Hong Kong.”
The Ringer reported, “After general manager Daryl Morey expressed support in a since-deleted tweet for pro-democracy efforts in Hong Kong, the Chinese government, the Chinese Basketball Association, and various Chinese businesses quickly denounced Morey and moved to sever ties with the Rockets. As a consequence, league sources told The Ringer that Rockets ownership has debated Morey’s employment status and whether to replace him.”
Tencent’s efforts on behalf of the Chinese government have reportedly included censoring keywords related to the Wuhan coronavirus since January 1, according to a University of Toronto study.
“Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley in late April introduced a bill aimed at preventing Chinese espionage by prohibiting U.S. federal employees from conducting official business over platforms run by Tencent, Huawei, ZTE and other Chinese companies and barring U.S. tax dollars from being used for any international contracts with those firms,” RCP noted, adding, “The United Nations in mid-April backed out of a deal with Tencent to provide videoconferencing and text services at the organization’s 75th anniversary after U.S. officials, lawmakers and human rights groups complained. Louis Charbonneau, the U.N. director for Human Rights Watch, called Tencent ‘an enabler of Chinese government oppression.’”.
Kelly “maintains a personal financial stake in the company of between $100,000 and $250,000 worth of non-public stock and $15,001 and $50,000 worth of stock options,” RCP pointed out.
“Since 2016, World View has managed to win at least $51.8 million in government contracts, including $45 million from NASA for its Flight Opportunities Program,” RCP wrote. While Kelly has been silent about his company’s connections with Tencent, Rep. Michael McCaul, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a fierce critic of China, disclosed that his wife had bought between $50,000 and $100,000 worth of shares in Tencent.
The Hudson Institute has warned about China’s investment in the U.S. space industry, writing,“China’s interactions with the U.S. space industry include commercial investment in U.S. startups, civil and commercial competition, and hostile cyberattacks.”
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