WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today gave the following opening remarks at a full committee hearing on transnational repression. Witnesses included Mr. Christo Grovez, investigative journalist and co-founder of Bellingcat Productions, Mr. Michael Abramowitz, President of Freedom House, and Ms. Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC, international legal counsel to Jimmy Lai with Doughty Street Barristers.
Ranking Member Risch gave the following remarks:
“Mr. Chairman thank you for that, and thank you for your leadership in this particular area.
“Most Americans are not familiar with the term transnational repression – it’s not a household term or a household phrase – but Americans understand the concept. Transnational repression occurs when authoritarian governments go beyond their borders to harass and intimidate their citizens, those who defend human rights abroad, or anyone they consider to be a threat to their regimes.
“Governments who have gotten away with silencing dissent inside their own country are now trying to stifle free speech around the world, including here in the United States. Just last week, the Department of Justice, who the Chairman referred to, unsealed an indictment alleging an Indian government official engaged in a plot to assassinate a U.S. citizen in New York City.
“It should surprise no one that China is leading the world in using transnational repression to quash any sign of dissent. Last month, pro-CCP protestors, funded by the Chinese consulate, harassed and assaulted human rights advocates on U.S. soil at APEC in San Francisco.
“The failure of the Biden Administration and the city government to prevent or respond to these attacks is deeply unfortunate. The administration prioritized a smooth meeting with Xi Jinping over addressing this issue publicly.
“Hong Kong authorities are increasingly engaged in acts of transnational repression. This fall, Hong Kong authorities issued bounties for political dissidents who left the city, some of whom are seeking asylum in the United States.
“Prominent Hong Kong-British businessman Jimmy Lai remains unjustly imprisoned, while the CCP harasses his international legal team. I look forward to hearing directly from Ms. Gallagher on that matter today.
“Beyond Asia, it is clear the legacy of Soviet tyranny looms large in Eurasia. Russia sends its operatives to poison, intimidate, and sometimes assassinate members of the opposition and dissidents-in-exile. A few years ago, the Russians actually shot a man in the head in a public park in Germany, in broad daylight. They also poisoned a man in a park in England in 2018. There are no boundaries that they will respect, that is clear.
“Our NATO ally Turkey is also a top offender. While it has decried acts of transnational repression that take place on its soil, it has also used these same tactics to suppress Turkish dissidents outside of the country.
“This is evidenced by its pursuit of members of the Gulenist movement, including former NBA player Enes Kantor Freedom, who has had his Turkish passport cancelled while abroad, Interpol Red Alerts issued for his arrest, and threats so aggressive that the FBI issued him a call button.
“The Iranian regime is another egregious yet unsurprising offender. It targets dissidents and critics abroad, to include murder and kidnapping plots against Americans on U.S. soil.
“As countries fail to push back on these increasingly brazen actions that undermine sovereignty and national security, perpetrators grow more emboldened and additional countries adopt similar tactics.
“I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today on what more can be done to stop this egregious practice. In particular, I want to hear what we, as the United States government, can do about it.
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”
These remarks have been lightly edited for clarity. Witness testimony is available on foreign.senate.gov.