A recent report by a U.S. congressional advisory commission, obtained by Newsweek, reveals a concerning picture of China’s methods for global repression. This “toolkit” employed by China includes seven distinct methods that are not only infringing on individual rights but also encroaching on the sovereignty of nations. These methods, part of an aggressive campaign by the Chinese government and the Communist Party of China (CPC), aim to stifle dissent, intimidate, and assault perceived threats to their power, extending China’s domestic authoritarian control beyond its borders.
One of the key tactics identified is digital surveillance and harassment. This involves monitoring critics’ online activities and using digital platforms to harass them. Another method is deploying state security officers overseas to pursue and repatriate targets. This extraterritorial law enforcement action directly challenges the sovereignty of other nations. The toolkit also includes coercion-by-proxy, where actions are carried out on behalf of Beijing by overseas Chinese, often resulting in harassment and physical attacks against protestors, including Hong Kongers, Tibetans, and democracy activists.
In addition to these methods, the report highlights hacking, attempted kidnapping, physical and online threats, and malign social media campaigns against persons. There are also instances of freezing financial assets to coerce victims in foreign countries to return to China, or making threats against family members living in the victim’s country of birth.
These methods have been part of China’s increasingly aggressive campaign to “stalk, surveil, harass, intimidate, and assault its victims,” as stated in the report. It’s a reflection of what already happens within China, now being implemented on a global scale.
The U.S. is attempting to counter these measures through deeper alliances and new rules to manage economic and technological interactions with China. However, the report indicates that the U.S. lacks a comprehensive strategy to effectively identify and counter China’s transnational repression. The FBI and other U.S. departments are deploying various measures, but there is a need for new policy tools and better utilization of existing ones.
In response to the report, Liu Pengyu, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C., accused the U.S. of creating a “false narrative” and engaging in similar practices of secret surveillance and global manhunts. Liu stated, “China firmly opposes the U.S.’s slanders and smears, its political manipulation and the false narrative of transnational repression.” This response highlights the broader geopolitical contest where both nations accuse each other of undermining global stability and rights.
The report also draws attention to China’s management of potential threats within the Chinese diaspora, which it defines as all ethnic Chinese regardless of citizenship. This includes running illegal “overseas police stations,” leveraging international extradition agreements, and abusing Interpol’s “Red Notice” system to target political opponents.
China’s campaign of transnational repression, involving a combination of different methods, reflects its internal security approach, extending internationally. The impact of these repressive actions is far-reaching, impacting pro-democracy movements and human rights advocacy globally.
Allowing China to operate this way within the U.S. is a major flaw in our defense against repression and defense of our Constitution against foreign enemies.