Carmel withdraws relationship with United States Heartland China Association

CARMEL, Ind. — Carmel has officially withdrawn from its relationship with the United States Heartland China Association, according to a letter obtained by FOX59/CBS4.

Sue Finkam, Carmel’s new mayor, sent a letter to the United States Heartland China Association on Wednesday, stating that they would withdraw from the association, effective Jan. 2, 2024. Officials with the city of Carmel said that the city first joined the association in 2022 at an annual rate of $25,000.

“This decision has been reached after careful consideration and evaluation of our city’s priorities and strategic partnerships,” read the letter, addressed to Bob Holden, the chairman and president of the United States Heartland China Association. Holden is the former Democratic governor of Missouri.

According to its website, the United States Heartland China Association is a 501(c)3 bipartisan organization aimed at “building bridges and promoting opportunities” between the Heartland Region, consisting of 20 states in the United States, and the People’s Republic of China.

This comes after U.S. Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind. District 3) called on the city of Carmel to end its sister city relationship with Xiangyang in China. According to previous reports, Banks said the city in Carmel could “lead the way by becoming the first of many Indiana cities to drop its sister city agreement and distance itself from the Chinese Communist Party.”

In response to Banks, Indiana State Rep. Mitch Gore (D-District 89) attempted to add a sister city-related amendment to House Bill 1183, according to previous reports.

While the amendment did not make it in the final version of the bill, Gore told FOX59/CBS4 at the time that he is not giving up on getting something done on this topic in the future, seeing it as a nonpartisan issue.

“I think Hoosiers all agree that, you know, elected officials are there to represent them and they shouldn’t be wined and dined by members of the Communist Chinese Party,” Gore said at the time. “It’s pretty straightforward. We expect our elected officials to be ethical and upstanding and we know that China tries to influence American government officials and we need to steer clear of it. So year, I do think it’s a nonpartisan issue.”

In a statement from Finkam, she said that the city of Carmel made the decision to withdraw from the association during her first month in office. Finkam said the focus is on the needs and priorities of Carmel residents, stressing that the annual membership fee paid by taxpayers could be “used more appropriately.”

“As stated previously, the Chinese Communist Party will have no influence over the City of Carmel,” Finkam said. “Our sister city relationships around the world, like the one with Xiangyang, provide great cultural value to our residents, including the many freedom-loving Chinese Americans who call our great city home.”

In a statement from Banks, he praised Finkam’s decision to cut ties with the association.

“This is a dangerous group that puts the Chinese Communist Party and its interests first,” Banks said. “I hope other officials around Indiana and the Midwest take similar steps as they learn more about the Heartland Association and China’s influence efforts in the coming week.”

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