Federal Commission Calls on Biden Administration to Tackle China’s Malign Influence in US

Federal Commission Calls on Biden Administration to Tackle China’s Malign Influence in US

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‘The Chinese government relentlessly pursues, harasses, and intimidates diaspora religious communities, political dissidents, and others.’

The U.S. religious freedom watchdog is urging the Biden administration to take more actions to address China’s malign influence in the United States.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a bipartisan federal agency, released a policy update report on Jan. 5 covering a wide range of topics related to China’s human rights abuses, particularly U.S. government policies on technology and religious freedom. One key focus of the report is China’s political influence and transnational repression, particularly in the United States.

“The Chinese government relentlessly pursues, harasses, and intimidates diaspora religious communities, political dissidents, and others with ties to China who reside in the United States, including Uyghur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, Christians, and Falun Gong practitioners,” the report says.

The timing of the report’s release comes as the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) efforts to silence dissidents on U.S. soil have recently come under renewed scrutiny, since many anti-CCP protesters were assaulted in San Francisco in November, when CCP leader Xi Jinping traveled to the city for the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit. The attackers were pro-CCP counter-protesters, some of whom had been organized by the Chinese consulates to welcome Xi.
The violence in San Francisco has prompted discussions among some lawmakers looking for ways to formally criminalize the Chinese regime’s transnational repression. One possibility is to pass the Transnational Repression Policy Act and its companion bill in the Senate, both of which were introduced early last year.
As an example of China’s transnational repression, the report pointed to the 2022 indictment of Wang Shujun, a naturalized U.S. citizen, and four Chinese intelligence agents, for an alleged plot to spy on dissidents, human rights leaders, and pro-democracy activists in the United States.

Secretive Police Stations

The CCP is also known for operating secretive police stations in many nations, including the United States, to drive its transnational repression activities.

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“Chinese overseas police stations operate in at least 53 countries, including Canada, Japan, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom,” the report says, pointing out that two individuals were arrested and charged in April 2023 in connection with operating an illegal Chinese overseas police station in New York City.

The two individuals, Lu Jianwang and Chen Jinping, allegedly took orders from the Chinese regime to track and silence Chinese dissidents living in the United States. One time, when Xi visited the United States in 2015, Mr. Lu was asked to organize counterprotests opposing demonstrations held by Falun Gong adherents.

Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a spiritual practice that incorporates gentle meditative exercises and moral teachings based on the principles of truth, compassion, and tolerance. The practice, introduced to the public in 1992, gained immense popularity in China by the late 1990s, with around 70 million to 100 million practitioners, based on official estimates at the time.

Deeming the practice’s popularity a threat to its power, the CCP launched a brutal campaign to eliminate the practice in July 1999. Since then, millions of Falun Gong practitioners have been detained inside prisons, labor camps, and other facilities, with hundreds of thousands tortured while incarcerated, according to the U.S.-based nonprofit Falun Dafa Information Center.
In a written testimony for a congressional hearing on China’s transnational repression in September last year, Levi Browde, the center’s executive director, wrote, “Ethnic Chinese and non-ethnic Chinese Falun Gong practitioners on university campuses across the United States have reported incidents of surveillance, slander, and censorship by Chinese officials, CCP proxies, or other China-linked individuals.”

The report offered two suggestions to the U.S. government on how to tackle the issue: “Work in close coordination with international partners to exchange intelligence and to continue prosecuting those engaging in transnational repression activities against religious minorities on behalf of the Chinese government.”

Malign Political Influence

The report said the U.S. government should be alert to China’s “malign political influence” and have a “tangible policy response.”

“China’s lobbying efforts in the U.S. Congress represent a particularly insidious form of political influence, aimed at shaping federal policymaking in furtherance of the Chinese government’s interests and goals,” the report says. “China’s state-owned and private companies hire American lobbyists—including former members of Congress and other former U.S. government officials—to represent the Chinese government’s interest on Capitol Hill.”

As an example, the report named China-owned video surveillance company Hikvision, noticing that its lobbyists included four former members of Congress.

Hikvision was among a group of Chinese companies added to the U.S. Commerce Department’s blacklist in October 2019 over their roles in supporting Beijing’s human rights abuses against Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities in China’s far-western Xinjiang region. The U.S. government has formally declared China’s treatment of Uyghurs as “genocide” and “crimes against humanity.”
The Pentagon added Hikvision to a group of Chinese companies with ties to the Chinese military in 2020.
In 2021, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) designated Hikvision as a threat to U.S. national security.
The report named several bills that would address concerns associated with China’s lobbying efforts. The Disclosing Foreign Influence in Lobbying Act (H.R.1190) would require registered lobbyists to declare “any foreign countries or political parties that are involved in the direction, planning, supervision, or control of the lobbyist’s activities.”
Another bill is the Stop Helping Adversaries Manipulate Everything Act (H.R.9140), which “would further ban registered agents or lobbyists of foreign adversaries like China from receiving compensation for their services,” according to the report.

“Congress can help combat this kind of foreign malign influence by increasing transparency on foreign lobbying and by banning outright lobbying by agents acting on behalf of foreign adversaries, like the Chinese Communist Party and its government,” the report says. 

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