Carmel to end membership with U.S. Heartland China Association

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The City of Carmel has withdrawn from the United States Heartland China Association, a nonprofit that aims to build bridges between states in the Central U.S. and China.

CIC COM 1115 SF Sue Finkam
Sue Finkam

Carmel Mayor Sue Finkam alerted USHCA Gov. Bob Holden in a Feb. 7 letter that the city did not plan to renew its membership, which expired at the end of 2023.

“Based on information gained during the first month of my tenure in office, I sent a letter to the U.S. Heartland China Association sharing that we would not renew our membership initiated by the previous administration,” Finkam said of the decision. “As stated previously, the Chinese Communist Party will have no influence over the City of Carmel.”

The city joined the association in 2022 during the mayoral administration of Jim Brainard and paid a membership fee of $25,000 per year. Finkam became Carmel mayor Jan. 1.

“My focus is on the needs and priorities of Carmel residents and I believe the $25,000 annual membership fee paid for by taxpayers can be used more appropriately,” Finkam said. “Additionally, given the myriad of concerns Congress has regarding this organization, it affirms the decision we had already made to withdraw.”

The announcement comes approximately a week after U.S. Rep. Jim Banks called on Carmel and other Hoosier cities to withdraw from sister city agreements with municipalities in China. He sent a letter Jan. 30 to Finkam urging the dissolution of the partnership with Xiangyang, China, and asking Carmel officials to abstain from trips organized by groups with ties to the CCP.

Ending membership with USHCA does not directly impact Carmel’s sister city relationship with Xiangyang.

“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,” Finkam stated when asked by Current if the sister city partnership would continue.

Previously, in response to Banks’ letter, Finkam stated that all sister-city agreements would be reviewed.

Banks said Finkam “did Carmel a great service by cutting ties” with USHCA.

“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.”

Brainard, who continues to serve as vice chair of USHCA, traveled to China in late 2023 as part of a trip coordinated by USHCA as part of a 13-member delegation of U.S. mayors. During the trip, the mayors met with Chinese officials to discuss issues that included green development and friendly cooperation.

USHCA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


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