A new report warns that the Chinese regime actively targets exiles and dissident groups abroad as it increases its capacity to persecute its citizens anywhere in the world.
In a campaign described by the advocacy group Freedom House as the “most sophisticated and comprehensive” in the world, kidnappings, attacks, and intimidation are just some of the strategies used by Beijing to repress foreign critics and religious and ethnic minorities.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been involved in at least 214 physical attacks against its citizens abroad since 2014, the highest by far compared to other nations, the group said in its transnational repression study released on Feb 4.
“The campaign’s sheer breadth and global scale is unparalleled,” the report stated.
In a high-profile case in Thailand in 2015, Chinese agents kidnapped Gui Minhai, a Hong Kong-based Swedish resident, for publishing books critical of the leaders of the regime. Chinese authorities later reported that Gui renounced his Swedish citizenship and regained his Chinese citizenship while in custody. He was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment in early 2020 for “illegally providing intelligence overseas.”
Although not all goals face such devastating acts, the study said. Others face, in person or online, surveillance, abuse, and coercion by Chinese agents or their proxies.
These efforts leave “many Chinese overseas and exiled minorities feeling that they are being watched by the CCP and limiting their ability to exercise fundamental rights even when living in a foreign democracy,” it said.
Turkish Muslim minorities, Falun Gong practitioners, advocates for human rights, and former CCP insiders are targets. All told, millions of Chinese and ethnic minorities are affected, the group said, in at least 36 countries.
While this campaign is not fresh, in recent years the CCP has intensified its actions as the regime has added new repression groups, especially the Uyghur community, the report said.
The regime forced Uyghurs with Chinese citizenship around the globe to return to China after the regime started detaining en-masse Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the far western province of Xinjiang in 2016. According to the paper, many who did not return were detained in countries, including Thailand and Egypt, and illegally deported back to China.
Chinese police have also pressured Uyghur activists’ family members overseas to call them on WeChat, a social media app from China, to warn about their activism.
The study said, “These threats create an atmosphere of fear for Uighurs abroad.”
Falun Gong practitioners from abroad, a spiritual community persecuted by the CCP, are also facing reprisals from the Chinese authorities or their members.
Freedom House reported that members of the group were subjected to “frequent harassment and occasional physical attacks by members of visiting Chinese delegations or pro-Beijing proxies at overseas protests,” including in the United States, Taiwan, Brazil, Argentina, and the Czech Republic.
The study also remembered the case of a Falun Gong practitioner, Sun Yi, who survived the infamous Masanjia Chinese labor camp. He snuck an SOS letter into a Halloween decoration for export when he was detained. An American woman later discovered it in 2012. He shot a video documenting his encounters with undercover footage, and fled to Indonesia.
Sun died of sudden kidney failure in 2017. His family said Sun never had kidney problems, and no clear details of his death were provided by the hospital and he hurried to have his body cremated. No autopsy was conducted. These conditions have led the supporters of Sun to suspect foul play.