U.S. think tank Freedom House reports that the Chinese regime conducts the most sophisticated, global, and comprehensive campaign of transnational repression in the world. It happens when “governments reach across borders to silence dissent, including through assassinations, illegal deportations, abductions, digital threats, Interpol abuse, and family intimidation.”
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) targets former Communist party members who have fled abroad, political dissidents, practitioners of Falun Gong, and minority communities like the Uighurs. Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa is a spiritual practice based on the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance.
Efforts by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to pressure and control the overseas population of Chinese and members of minority communities are marked by three distinctive characteristics.
- First, the campaign targets many groups, including multiple ethnic and religious minorities, political dissidents, human rights activists, journalists, and former insiders accused of corruption.
- Second, it spans the full spectrum of tactics: from direct attacks like renditions, to co-opting other countries to detain and render exiles, to mobility controls, to threats from a distance like digital threats, spyware, and coercion by proxy.
- Third, the sheer breadth and global scale of the campaign is unparalleled. Freedom House’s conservative catalogue of direct, physical attacks since 2014 covers 214 cases originating from China, far more than any other country.
Falun Gong practitioners are targeted by the Chinese Communist Party outside of China on a regular basis. The report points out frequent harassment and occasional physical assaults [against Falun Gong practitioners] by members of visiting Chinese delegations or pro-Beijing proxies at protests overseas, as in cases that have occurred since 2014 in the United States, the Czech Republic, Taiwan, Brazil, and Argentina.
Media and cultural initiatives associated with Falun Gong have reported suspicious break-ins targeting sensitive information, vehicle tampering, and pressure from Chinese authorities for local businesses to cut off advertising or other contractual obligations with them.
In Thailand, several Falun Dafa practitioners have also faced detention, including a Taiwanese man involved in uncensored radio broadcasts to China and several cases of Chinese refugees formally recognized as such by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
In October 2017, a Falun Gong practitioner who had survived a Chinese labour camp and become a high-profile informant on CCP abuses—sneaking a letter into a Halloween decoration when detained and later filming a documentary with undercover footage—died of sudden kidney failure in Indonesia. Some colleagues consider his death suspicious, but no autopsy was performed.
These egregious and high-profile cases are only the tip of the iceberg of a much broader system of surveillance, harassment, and intimidation that leaves many overseas Chinese and exile minorities feeling that the CCP is watching them and constraining their ability to exercise basic rights even when living in a foreign democracy.