The donations started coming in about 10 p.m. on Dec. 17.
A donor named Li Zhang gave $100. A few minutes later, someone named Jun Li donated $100. Then Hao Xu gave $20, followed shortly by $25 from a Ying Pei. In all, almost 1,000 people with Chinese surnames gave about $86,000 to a fundraiser on the crowdfunding platform GiveSendGo for members of the extremist street gang the Proud Boys.
Their gifts made up more than 80% of the $106,107 raised for medical costs for members of the Proud Boys who were stabbed during violent clashes in Washington, D.C., in mid-December.
The donations, which are included in a trove of hacked GiveSendGo data provided to USA TODAY and posted on the whistleblower site Distributed Denial of Secrets, raise several questions. Chiefly: Why would people from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and members of the Chinese American community, donate to an organization with deep ties to white supremacists, whose members flash white power signals and post racist memes on social media?
The surprising answer to this question is that the Proud Boys enjoy significant support from a slice of the Chinese American community and the broader Chinese diaspora.
Some Chinese Americans have bought in to the rhetoric spread by the Proud Boys, conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones and conservative commentators that America is under attack from communism. They believe the Proud Boys are on the vanguard of protecting the country from a communist army controlled by Antifa and the Black Lives Matter movement — claims that have been widely debunked.
For some who left China in rejection of communism, particularly those who support former President Donald Trump, the Proud Boys have taken on an almost mythical status as tough street soldiers on the front lines of this battle between democracy and communism. [Continue reading…]