Activist Urges Congress to Confront China’s Transnational Repression
During testimony on Capitol Hill Thursday, a religious freedom expert on China revealed the extent of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) efforts to engage in transnational repression and espionage by targeting dissidents and religious freedom advocates in other countries.
The House Homeland Security Committee’s hearing, entitled “Safeguarding Dissident Voices: Addressing Transnational Repression Threats to Homeland Security,” featured Bob Fu, a senior fellow for International Religious Freedom at Family Research Council and the founder and president of ChinaAid, an organization that works to expose human rights abuses in China and advocate for religious freedom there.
As a college student in China, Fu participated in the Tiananmen Square democracy movement in 1989, which was infamously put down by the CCP in a brutal massacre. He later graduated from college and became a faculty member at the Beijing Party School of the CCP, during which time he also became the leader of a house church. In 1996, he and his wife Bochun “Heidi” Cai were imprisoned for their work, and in 1997 were both exiled to the U.S.
At Thursday’s hearing, Fu described how “the CCP under Communist Party leader Xi Jinping has engaged in perhaps the worst repression against religious freedom, rule of law, and human rights since the Cultural Revolution. The transnational repression effort under the CCP overseas has been recognized as the most systematic, multi-front, multi-faceted [effort] over Western free societies.”
He further noted how the CCP “compulsively legalized overseas spying work for all Chinese according to a Chinese national intelligence law passed in 2017. Virtually every Chinese [person], including those who were born in the U.S. and [other countries], are mandated to do spy work. The CCP uses different pro-China organizations to engage in these transnational activities — the Chinese embassies, 150 U.S.-based Chinese student and scholar associations, the All-China Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese, and many other organizations.”
Fu went on to describe how the CCP has “directly engag[ed] in kidnapping, physical harassment, and cyberthreats to individuals and organizations alike.” He recounted the case of a worker from a Chinese house church stationed at an American missionary organization based in Seoul, South Korea. “He was kidnapped [when] he returned to Beijing. He was sent back to Seoul with a programmed iPad and cash to spy on the American organization. In early 2020, he was found hanged on a tree and died. The case has still not been resolved.”
Fu also explained how “multiple [ChinaAid] staff members have been targeted over the years.” Even though “most of them are naturalized American citizens,” he described how Chinese authorities force them to surrender their American passports. Fu further recounted how in September of 2020, hundreds of masked CCP operatives surrounded his house in Midland, Texas for three months, chanting for the “elimination of Bob Fu” every day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The situation got so tense that the FBI and local law enforcement evacuated Fu and his family. In addition, he described how over the last year, he has received multiple threats via text message, including being “swatted” as well as being accused of threatening to bomb luxury hotels.
During Thursday’s edition of “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins,” Fu enumerated how even American law enforcement have sometimes not protected Chinese American citizens. “[M]y friend who was a former Tiananmen Square student leader in California has a very popular show on YouTube critical of the Communist Party,” he noted. “[H]is house was also being besieged, preventing his two children from going to school. When he reported [it] to the California police, [they] knocked on his door and [told him that the] so-called protester said, ‘If you shut down your YouTube and be silent, they will leave.’”
Fu shared how the Biden administration has appeared to backtrack on previous measures designed to counter China’s transnational tactics.
“[M]y first recommendation is to have the DOJ restore the Trump administration’s policy called the China Initiative, that basically giv[es] law enforcement the sufficient tools to specifically sort out and target … perpetrators of the CCP’s transnational repression,” he explained. “But almost a month after this administration came to power, mysteriously, that initiative was canceled. That was a very bad decision.”
During his congressional testimony Thursday, Fu further elaborated on his recommendation to “establish a national database for collecting these cases. The FBI has a center, but it’s not enough. We should have a more comprehensive [database].” He also urged Congress to “pass legislation to ban individuals and entities associated with the CCP and its foreign agents from purchasing real estate to [prevent] them from establishing permanent bases to harass and engage in transnational threats.”
Fu’s concerns over China’s transnational aggression were recently backed up by FBI Director Christopher Wray, who in April testified before Congress that the communist regime “presents a more significant threat to our innovation, our ideas, our economic security, our national security” than any other country. “And that’s why we’ve grown the number of investigations into threats from China about 1,300%,” he continued.
Recent incidents that have surfaced include the spy balloon that was allowed to navigate the continental U.S. last February, a 7,000% increase in Chinese nationals being apprehended at the southern border, China’s snapping up of massive swaths of U.S. farmland near military installations, the discovery of CCP “police stations” in U.S. cities, and the discovery of a suspicious biolab with ties to China in California.
Dan Hart is senior editor at The Washington Stand.