Joe Biden’s nominee for immigration enforcement chief partnered with a Chinese government propaganda ministry on a 2014 public relations campaign to bolster the international image of Shanghai, a partnership that is now under scrutiny ahead of his Senate confirmation hearing.
Ed Gonzalez was a member of the Houston City Council and was serving as the city’s mayor pro tem when he signed a cooperative agreement in October 2014 with Zhu Yonglei, the head of the Chinese government’s Information Office of Shanghai, according to news reports and Gonzalez’s Twitter posts at the time.
The “memorandum of understanding” between Gonzalez and Zhu was an “agreement to promote each of the partner cities for a year through a series of videos at strategic locations and on social media,” according to China Daily. The deal was reportedly an expansion of an existing partnership intended to promote economic ties between Houston and Shanghai.
Gonzalez, who currently serves as the sheriff of Harris County, Texas, was nominated for director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement last month. But his involvement with the Chinese propaganda bureau has come under scrutiny ahead of his Senate confirmation hearing. The Washington Free Beacon reported last week that Gonzalez also took a 2015 trip to China that was bankrolled by an advocacy group for the EB-5 cash-for-visa program.
Zhu—who has since been promoted to deputy of Shanghai’s propaganda department—praised the agreement at the time and said he “hope[d] this exchange will unite us together to promote the sustainable development of cities around the globe.” Gonzalez tweeted a photo of him and Zhu signing the deal. Another photo from the event shows the two men standing next to each other while Gonzalez displays a framed photograph of Shanghai.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.