TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis blasted the Chinese Communist Party and the World Health Organization while signing two bills aimed at combatting foreign influence and corporate espionage Monday morning.
“The first bill that I signed today safeguards our public institutions from undue foreign influence and that means prohibiting agreements between public entities and the Communist Party of China or Cuba or any of these malignant forces,” DeSantis said at the bill signing in Miami.
The bill would stop academic institutions from offering certain language and cultural programs overseas, such as the CCP-backed Confuscius Institute, which closed in 2019. Universities receiving grants or donations of more than $50,000 from foreign governments must disclose them.
“In Florida, we’re gonna take a stand. These bills I’m signing into law today, foreign adversaries will not have access to our schools, government, and companies like they have in the past, not the Communist Party of China, not Russia, not Cuba, not North Korea, not Iran, not Syria, not Venezuela. In fact, the first bill that I signed today safeguards our public institutions from undue Florent foreign influence,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis said the second bill would impose harsher penalties on people who leak trade secrets.
“Anyone who willfully without authorization steals or attempts to steal a trade secret, and use it for their own benefit will now face a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison. If the same person tries to sell the stolen trade secret, they’ll face a second-degree felony with even more penalties,” DeSantis said.
The governor echoed his own calls to “hold China accountable” for the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that the CCP and the World Health Organization were to blame for the virus’ spread.
“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,” DeSantis said at a press conference. “The Chinese Communist Party is primarily to blame, but there’s also American money that very well may have flown to Wuhan.”
“The WHO [World Health Organization] is in the pocket of the communist party of China. They basically were having everybody look the other way,” he added. “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. You saw the academic community largely circle the wagons and defend the CCP. You saw corporate media.”