Republican candidate Mitt Romney, has come under attack following revelation that Bain Capital, a private equity firm he founded, has investments in the video surveillance division of a company that supplies the Chinese government's Safe Cities program.
The Chinese government's Safe Cities program is a video surveillance initiative that allows the Chinese government to monitor Chinese civil society from centralized government posts.
The Chinese company in which Romney's Bain Capital has interests is Uniview Technologies. The New York Times reports evidence from financial disclosure forms Romney filed last August reveal that a blind trust in the name of his wife, Ann Romney, held a stake of $100,000 and $250,000 in Bain Capital Asia that purchased Uniview.
According to The New York Times, Uniview manufactures "infrared antiriot" cameras and software that will allow Chinese police to share images in real time on Internet. The company had previously been involved in setting up an emergency command center in Tibet that provided "a solid foundation for the maintenance of social stability and the protection of people’s peaceful life."
Human rights advocates say that the Chinese government uses its surveillance programs to monitor and intimidate political opponents and dissidents. The New York Times reports that Loksage, a Tibetan Buddhist monk in Gansu Province, said: “There are video cameras all over our monastery, and their only purpose is to make us feel fear." The cameras were used to identify and detain nearly 200 monks who participated in a protest at the monastery in 2008.
Los Angeles Time reports that at a Democratic National Committee conference call on Friday afternoon, Michele Flournoy, former defense undersecretary for policy, criticized Romney over Bain's investment in the surveillance company. According to Flournoy and Rep. Gerald E. Connlly(D-Va.), the investment was not consistent with Romney's hardline stance on China.
But R. Bradford Malt, who manages Romney's trusts, said that he had put trust assets into the fund before Uniview was purchased. He stressed that Romney was not involved in Bain's operations and was not part of the decision to invest in Uniview.
Yet tongues are wagging over the decision of an American corporation to invest in providing the authoritarian Chinese communist government with technology that can be used to maintain its repressive regime. And what makes the revelation of Bain's ties to Univeiw ironic is that in recent times Romney has been vocal about his opposition to the Chinese government's suppression of civil rights of its citizens.
Recently, Romney accused the Obama administration of sacrificing human rights concerns to economic concerns in its dealings with China and he called for the U.S. government to give greater support to opponents of the Chinese Communist Party.
IB Times reports Romney said that if elected president, he would take a hardline stance on China concerning matters of its human rights record. A statement on Romney's campaign website, said: "Any serious U.S. policy toward China must confront the fact that China's regime continues to deny its people basic political freedoms and human rights...The United States has an important role to play in encouraging the evolution of China toward a more politically open and democratic order."
Politico reports that Stephanie Cutter, Obama's campaign manager, said at the conference call: "This new revelation about Romney's financial interest in a Chinese surveillance company suggests that Romney is not living up to his own publicly-stated values. Mitt Romney seems to play by one set of rules on the campaign trail but has another set of rules for his own finances." According to Politico, Cutter said: "Now we know why Mitt Romney has been less than forthcoming about the details of his finances. Romney and his trustee claimed that he divested completely from Chinese-based companies. But today we learned that he continues to have a partnership interest worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in a Bain Capital fund that owns a Chinese video surveillance company. This revelation not only highlights Romney’s utter hypocrisy on China, but it also raises more questions about what his investments are and why he won’t reveal all of them."
Romney, according to Los Angeles Times, had responded to the criticisms levelled against him. During a news conference after he arrived in Puerto Rico, he said he was not aware of Bain Capital's ties to Uniview Technologies. According to Los Angeles Times, Romney said he left Bain Capital 13 years ago and his investments are managed in blind trusts. LA Times reports most of Romney's investments are held in three separate blind trusts that he set up in 2003. Romney, responding to the The New York Times report that broke the news on Bain's ties with Uniview, said: "I'm not familiar with that report and so I really can't respond to it. Any investments that I make are managed by a blind trust. I don't make investments in Bain or anywhere else. That's done by a trustee who makes decisions that he thinks are correct.”
Romney accused Obama and the Democratic National Committee of trying to draw attention from the economic problems of the country. Politico reports he said: "So, I know there will be efforts on the part of the Democratic National Committee and President Obama to try to take the focus away from their record on the economy, and I will instead bring it back to their failure to create jobs, their failure to reduce the unemployment rate, their failure to reduce the deficit in this country, their failure to secure a sound future for Medicare and Social Security....they'll try and find the most attenuated attacks they can come up with, but frankly the American people are tired of that. They want to have a leader that will actually get America working again, and I will."