On Thursday, an article from The Daily Signal, the blog of the conservative Heritage Foundation, claimed to show a damning link between an organization started by a Black Lives Matter co-founder, Alicia Garza, and a nonprofit with ties to the Chinese government. The article went viral.
But the article conflated two nonprofits with the same name, and it made incorrect claims about the links between Ms. Garza’s organization and the Chinese government.
The story was titled “This BLM Co-Founder and Pro-Communist China Group Are Partnering Up. Here’s Why.” It claimed that Ms. Garza, an activist and organizer in Oakland, was receiving funding from a pro-China organization for her project, Black Futures Lab. It pointed to the Black Futures Lab’s donation page, which lists a disclaimer saying that it is “a fiscally sponsored project of the Chinese Progressive Association.”
The report went on to detail the apparent links between the Chinese Progressive Association and the Chinese government, calling the nonprofit “a partner of the PRC in the United States” that has sponsored events with the Chinese consulate, such as raising a Chinese flag over City Hall in Boston last year.
But a cursory search of tax records shows that the Chinese Progressive Association in San Francisco, which has teamed up with the Black Futures Lab, is an entirely different nonprofit from the Chinese Progressive Association in Boston, which sponsored events with the Chinese consulate.
After The New York Times reached out to the Heritage Foundation, The Daily Signal updated its article, but it continued to falsely claim that there is a link between the Boston and San Francisco groups. Mike Gonzalez, the article’s author, said in an emailed statement that the historical ties between the two organizations was “actually fairly clear” and that they were “united around shared goals,” but said that the piece had been updated “to improve clarity.”
The San Francisco C.P.A. was started in 1972 to support working-class Chinese immigrants, according to its website, while the Boston C.P.A. (formerly known as the Chinatown Peoples Progressive Association) was founded in 1977 to advocate for “full equality and empowerment of the Chinese community in Greater Boston and beyond,” according to its website. Beyond their names and the overall mission of empowering Chinese-Americans, the two organizations do not appear to be linked.
A spokesman for the Boston-based C.P.A., Mark Liu, confirmed that the organizations are separate and unrelated, and that Ms. Garza and the Black Futures Lab had not received any funding from the Boston group. He also disputed the characterization of the organization as “pro-communist,” calling it “an attempt to discredit and defame our work in the community.”
Shaw San Liu, the executive director of the San Francisco-based C.P.A., said in an interview that the group had provided “administrative support” to Black Futures Lab, but said the organization was not pro-communist, and had no ties to the Chinese government.
“This is a ridiculous disinformation effort,” she said. “It’s just so clearly racist in the attempt to inflame anti-China sentiments and use it to attack Black Lives Matter.”
Despite the mix-up, the Daily Signal’s article went viral on right-wing social media on Thursday, ultimately becoming one of the most-engaged posts on Facebook. Breitbart, the far-right news organization, shared it on Facebook, as did Ben Shapiro, the conservative influencer, who shared it with a single-word caption: “Whoa.” Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, shared a Washington Examiner write-up of the report on Twitter. It was also featured by Fox News.
According to CrowdTangle, a Facebook-owned data tool, the Daily Signal article received more than 15,000 shares on Facebook. A New York Post story about the supposed Black Lives Matter-China link received more than 25,000 shares.
Conservative attempts to tie Black Lives Matter to communist groups are years old, and have included digging up a statement from one of the movement’s early leaders claiming that several of them were “trained Marxists.” But there is no indication that today’s Black Lives Matter movement has any formal link to Marxism, or to the Chinese Communist Party. As PolitiFact put it this year: “Black Lives Matter has grown into a national anti-racism movement broadly supported by Americans, few of whom would identify themselves as Marxist.”