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Tuesday, April 16 2024
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Beijing steps up intimidation of Chinese dissidents in US

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Photo Credit : IANS

Washington: Last week, the US Justice Department announced the indictment of one former and one current Department of Homeland Security agent in connection with an alleged Chinese government plot to target US-based critics, VOA reported.

The men, the law enforcement agency said, aided a “transnational repression” scheme to “silence, harass, discredit and spy on US-based residents for exercising their freedom of speech”.

Their victims ranged from a prominent California-based Chinese sculptor to a Chinese American Army veteran running for a congressional seat in New York.

This was not the first Chinese operation of its kind inside the United States. But it marked the first time that China has recruited federal agents in support of their effort, reflecting what US authorities regard as Beijing’s increasingly brazen intrusion into other countries, VOA reported.

“There seems to be a marked escalation in their efforts to carry out this unlawful campaign, a campaign that’s inimical not only to U.S. law but [also to] democratic values that we adhere to,” said David Laufman, who headed the Justice Department’s counterintelligence and export control section from 2014 to 2018.

A term popularised in recent years, transnational repression refers to efforts by authoritarian regimes to target critics living outside their borders. They do this in a variety of ways, from online harassment and intimidation to physical assault and assassination.

With a growing number of governments “using the same tools” to target critics, the advocacy organization Freedom House warns that the problem is becoming “normal”.

In a recent report, Freedom House documented 735 incidents of transnational repression from 2014 through 2021, with China accounting for more than 30 per cent of the incidents, making it the most prolific user in the world, VOA reported.

About 75 per cent of transnational repression activities are carried out in non-democratic countries, said Freedom House senior researcher Yana Gorokhovskaia.

“This is what makes it shocking — that the Chinese government has been able to be so active in the US,” Gorokhovskaia said.

The recent US focus on Chinese attacks comes as US law enforcement and intelligence officials warn about Chinese espionage and influence operations.

Uzra Zeya, undersecretary of state for civilian security, democracy and human rights, told a congressional panel last month that “the reach and frequency of [China’s] global repression is growing more alarming by the day”, VOA reported.

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