Republicans Call for Action as China Turns US into ‘Hunting Ground’ for Dissidents

Eva Fu
Frank Fang
By Eva Fu&Frank Fang
May 31, 2023Politicsshare
Republicans Call for Action as China Turns US into ‘Hunting Ground’ for Dissidents
Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) questions Congressional Budget Office Director Phillip Swagel as he testifies before the Legislative Branch Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee during a hearing on the "Congressional Budget Office FY2021 Budget Request," in the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Feb. 12, 2020. (Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

The recent indictments of two suspected Chinese agents in California are examples of how the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is trying to turn the United States into a “hunting ground” for dissidents, according to Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.).

The two individuals attempted to bribe an undercover officer posing as an IRS agent, in a plot to revoke the tax-exempt status of an entity run and maintained by Falun Gong practitioners, according to the Department of Justice. They were arrested at their residences on May 26 and face charges of conspiracy, bribery, and money laundering.

“This is another example of just how the CCP, the Communist Chinese Party, is doing all they can to undermine our sovereignty [and] silence all dissent even in our country,” Newhouse told EpochTV’s “Crossroads” on May 30.

While U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has characterized the case as part of China’s “campaign of transnational repression” in the United States, Newhouse gave a blunt assessment of the situation.

“I want to be clear about what I think this really means. This is a foreign government that is committing crimes against those that it deems to be a threat, right here on American soil,” Newhouse said.

The two suspected Chinese agents—John Chen from California’s Chino City and Lin Feng from Los Angeles—​​carried out their bribery campaign from January to May this year, according to prosecutors.

According to a court document, Chen characterized one of the Chinese officials the two received “direction” from as someone “that is always in charge of these matters,” during an intercepted phone call. In other words, the unidentified Chinese official could be directly involved in China’s ongoing persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China, possibly once having a position within the regime’s extralegal body known as the “610 Office.”

The United States “should be a haven from persecution, not what they’re trying to turn it into—a hunting ground for an authoritarian government,” Newhouse added.

610 Office

Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a spiritual discipline with slow meditative exercises and moral teachings. In 1999, the Chinese regime launched a persecution campaign against the group, throwing practitioners into prisons, labor camps, and brainwashing centers.

Hundreds of thousands of practitioners have been subjected to torture while incarcerated, according to the Falun Dafa Information Center, while thousands have been killed as a result of torture and abuse in police custody. Owing to strict censorship in China, the actual death toll is likely to be many times higher.

The 610 Office was set up in 1999 for the sole purpose of persecuting Falun Gong practitioners. It was disbanded between 2018 and 2019 and its functions were merged into other CCP organs, according to internal documents obtained by The Epoch Times.

Falun Dafa Day
Falun Gong practitioners march in Manhattan to celebrate World Falun Dafa Day on May 12, 2023, in New York. (Larry Dye/The Epoch Times)

In June 2021, the State Department announced sanctions against Yu Hui, a former director of a regional 610 Office, for his involvement in “gross violations of human rights, namely the arbitrary detention of Falun Gong practitioners for their spiritual beliefs.”

The Chinese regime’s presence inside the United States was exposed last month, when the FBI arrested two individuals on charges of operating a secret police station in New York City on behalf of the CCP. They allegedly took orders from the regime in order to track down and silence Chinese dissidents living in the United States, prosecutors said.

Newhouse said more and more American people, as well as members of Congress, are “seeing China for what it is” because of the “aggressive actions” that China has undertaken.

“I’m glad that the DOJ and the FBI have been on their toes on this doing the right thing, holding them accountable,” he added. “Who knows what else is going on, that maybe the American people and members of Congress even aren’t aware of. So we’ve got to be vigilant.”

‘Confront China’s Repression Head-On’

In response to the alleged bribery scheme against Falun Gong, two Republican lawmakers are calling for the government to confront China’s actions in the United States.

Rep Jim Banks Holds Press Conference On Iran
Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) speaks to the media with members of the Republican Study Committee about Iran in Washington on April 21, 2021. (Joshua Roberts/Getty Images)

Banks led a letter (pdf) to Garland and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in October last year, following a report (pdf) from Spanish human rights group Safeguard Defenders exposing China’s New York-based police station. The group released an updated report (pdf) two months later, stating that the station in New York was just one of four known Chinese police stations in the United States.

Noting that the Chinese police station in New York was reportedly helping Chinese authorities coerce the regime’s targets to go back to China, Banks wondered at the time whether the facility had received U.S. approval to establish the premise and stressed there “should be no room for the Chinese government to exercise extraterritorial law enforcement unilaterally on U.S. soil.”

He believes that the Biden administration could have acted faster.

“That sort of handwringing has emboldened the Chinese Communist Party and its agents to continue targeting American citizens on U.S. soil,” Banks told The Epoch Times. He urged Congress to push for more U.S. actions on this issue and “confront China’s repression head-on by sanctioning the United Front Work Department and kicking out any Chinese so-called ‘diplomats’ involved in these malign practices.”

China’s “united front” efforts mainly involve overseas operations to persuade organizations or individuals to spread the party’s propaganda in different locales. The executive CCP agency behind these operations is the United Front Work Department (UFWD). Chen, the suspect in the tax bribery case, also has positions in several Chinese united front organizations, such as the All-China Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese.

Lu Jianwang, one of the two arrested in the DOJ’s Chinese police station case, “had a longstanding relationship of trust” with the UFWD and China’s Ministry of Public Security, according to a court document (pdf).

In February 2021, Banks and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) introduced bicameral legislation (H.R.1214 and S.429) called the Countering Chinese Propaganda Act, with the aim of empowering the Secretary of State to impose sanctions on the UFWD.

‘We Must Address This Threat’

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) sees the alleged bribery case as an indication the Chinese regime will “stop at nothing” to target dissidents in the United States.

“China’s genocidal regime will stop at nothing to harass and intimidate Uyghurs, Tibetans, Falun Gong practitioners, Christians, and Hong Kongers living in exile, even on U.S. soil,” Rubio said in a statement to The Epoch Times.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) speaks in Washington on March 8, 2023. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

“As continued reports of CCP agents targeting these groups surface,” Rubio said, Congress “must address the threat” by passing the bipartisan Transnational Repression Policy Act that he introduced in March, together with Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.).

The bill, S.831, aims “to hold foreign governments and individuals accountable when they stalk, intimidate, or assault people across borders, including in the United States,” in part by requiring the establishment of tip line with the DOJ and the Department of Homeland Security for people to report transnational repression.

U.S. diplomatic personnel and domestic federal employees would also receive training to identify transnational repression under the act, and the U.S. president would need to submit to Congress a list of foreign individuals who should receive sanctions for engaging in such campaigns.

From The Epoch Times

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