On Monday, June 7, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed two bills which the Republican governor declared will stop the influence of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the state’s government and education.
“Today, the State of Florida is taking a stand against communist dictators and bad state actors. We will STOP CCP INFLUENCE in our education system and government by going on offense,” DeSantis tweeted.
The first bill, HB 1523, sponsored by Republican Rep. Mike Beltran, will prohibit theft of trade secrets; prohibit trafficking in trade secrets; reclassify penalty, and increase offense severity ranking for an offense committed with specified intent. It also requires the court to order specified restitution for violation; provides for civil actions for violations; provides exceptions to criminal and civil liability for certain disclosures.
The other bill, HB 7017, sponsored by Republican Rep. Erin Grall, aims to curb foreign influence in the state’s academic research institutions.
Speaking at a press conference in Miami on Monday, DeSantis said that “there is no single entity that exercises a more pervasive, nefarious influence across a wide range of American industries and institution than the Communist Party of China.”
The governor clarified that these bills would prohibit “agreements between public entities and the Communist Party of China or Cuba or any of these malignant forces,” and criminalize theft and trafficking trade secrets under Florida law.
“Anyone who willfully, without authorization, steals or attempts to steal a trade secret and uses it for their own benefit will now face a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison,” DeSantis warned.
The governor described the CCP as an “adversary” to the United States that he has viewed for a long time.
At the press conference, he sought to blame the CCP for the origins of the coronavirus, endorsing the theory that the virus was leaked from a Wuhan lab.
“The Communist Party of China decided to cover it up,” DeSantis said.” They didn’t give any information out. They didn’t ask for any assistance. They didn’t give a heads up to anybody. They tried to cover it up.”
“I really hope that we’re going to have accountability for the origins of the COVID pandemic because this just did not need to happen,” he said. “The Chinese Communist Party is primarily to blame, but there’s also American money that very well may have flown to Wuhan.”
DeSantis also accused the World Health Organization of serving as “the pocket” of the CCP.
“The idea was to try to whitewash the role of the CCP in this virus and it wasn’t just WHO, it wasn’t just bureaucracies,” DeSantis said. “You saw the academic community largely circle the wagons and defend the CCP.”