Hagerty Demands Answers from Biden Nominee on CCP-Mandated Anal Swabs of American Diplomats in China

March 7, 2024

Former U.S. Acting Chief of Mission China Forden Failed to Prevent Increasingly Grave Violations of Diplomats’ Rights

WASHINGTON—United States Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and former U.S. Ambassador to Japan, today in a hearing raised concerns with Robert Forden—nominee to be Ambassador to Cambodia and former United States’ Chargé d’affaires to China—about his role in the failure of Mission China to stand up to the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) violations of the privileges and immunities of American diplomats during the COVID-19 pandemic, including by subjecting diplomats to blood tests at PRC-approved labs and anal swabs.

“We need our diplomats to stand up to nefarious influence. As you mentioned, [Chinese influence is] all over Cambodia,” Hagerty said.

“According to whistleblower complaints, back in 2021, when you were in charge of the Embassy in Beijing, you knowingly allowed DNA collection from our U.S. government employees through blood tests prior to the entry to China…in spite of the national security and the counterintelligence concerns that you seem to share with me. The U.S. government had no way to verify that China only used these samples for COVID-19. In fact, China refused to anonymize and to destroy the samples,” Hagerty continued.

“Weren’t you concerned?” Hagerty asked.

Forden tried to deflect blame for failing to alert superiors to this change in circumstances by pointing to the State Department in Washington, saying: “At the time those policy decisions were made in Washington, and then we were instructed to implement them in China.”

“I think you should have followed the instructions from the State Department because back in September of 2020, they granted the State Department granted a limited waiver of inviolability…But the conditions then were nasal swab testing; they went to blood testing. The PRC even dictated which labs could be used in America. You did nothing to stop that. You did not notify through the front channel [of] the State Department as you were instructed to do. You didn’t stop that from happening. In fact, you recommended that our personnel comply with the PRC’s request. I think that is deeply, deeply concerning […] And then what happens next? It gets even worse. In early 2021, it comes to Mission China’s attention that the PRC is now escalated beyond blood test to go to anal swabs of our personnel in their apartments. That is shocking to me,” Hagerty said.

“Did you decide to stand up to the PRC?” Hagerty asked.

Forden responded by falsely claiming that “the reports of anal swabs of U.S. diplomats are completely false. There was an instance that occurred when a U.S. diplomat incorrectly complied, voluntarily complied when he should not have, and we rapidly and immediately protested.” In fact, according to whistleblower testimony, multiple U.S. diplomats complained of being subjected to anal swabs.

“If you’re going to go to Cambodia, you need to be able to stand up for our interests and for our diplomats’ interests. You need to be strong against China. Not allow them an inch, certainly not allow them the mile,” Hagerty concluded.

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