Targeting Dissidents: They Escaped Their Homelands, But Danger Still Looms For Them Here, FBI Says

By Tommy Wilson | Tuesday, 07 May 2024 01:50 PM
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Image Credit : Photo by FBI/AP Photo

In a recent development, a participant from the historic Tiananmen Square protests, who is now a candidate in the 2022 congressional race in New York City, has reportedly been targeted by a Chinese intelligence operative.

The operative allegedly hired a private investigator to dig up any potential scandals, such as extramarital affairs or tax issues, that could potentially derail the candidate's campaign. The operative was quoted saying, "In the end, violence would be fine too."

Simultaneously, an Iranian journalist and activist, Masih Alinejad, who currently resides in the United States, has been under the watchful eye of Tehran. Alinejad has been vocal about Iran's human rights abuses, which has reportedly led to a murder-for-hire plot against her, orchestrated by an Eastern European organized crime gang. The Justice Department claims to have thwarted the plan and has brought criminal charges against the perpetrators.

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These incidents highlight the lengths to which countries like China and Iran will go to intimidate, harass, and even plot against political opponents and activists residing in the U.S. This is a stark reminder of the potential dangers faced by ordinary citizens due to geopolitical tensions, as governments intolerant of dissent within their borders extend their threatening surveillance to those who voice opposition from afar.

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Alinejad stated in an interview, "We’re not living in fear, we’re not living in paranoia, but the reality is very clear — that the Islamic Republic wants us dead, and we have to look over our shoulder every day."

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The Justice Department has taken note of these incidents and has built cases against several suspects. Senior FBI officials have observed that these tactics have become more sophisticated, with countries increasingly willing to cross "serious red lines" from harassment to violence in their attempts to exert power abroad.

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Matthew Olsen, the Justice Department's top national security official, stated, "This is a huge priority for us." The situation is particularly concerning given the deteriorating relationship with Iran and ongoing tensions with China over issues ranging from trade and intellectual property theft to election interference.

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China has been identified as a primary offender by officials and advocates. However, the Chinese Embassy in Washington has denied these allegations, stating that the government "strictly abides by international law" and "resolutely opposes ‘long-arm jurisdiction.'"

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Despite these denials, U.S. officials claim that China has initiated "Operation Fox Hunt," a program designed to track Chinese expatriates wanted by Beijing and coerce them into returning to face charges.

The Justice Department has charged several individuals in connection with these transnational repression plots. However, most defendants are based in their home countries, making arrests and prosecutions rare.

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The victims of these harassment campaigns include a diverse range of individuals, from political refugees to figure skaters. These incidents have led to increased scrutiny of the Chinese government's actions.

Alinejad, the Iranian journalist, continues to work as a journalist and activist and remains determined to speak out, despite the chilling details of the plot against her. She has moved residences following advice from the FBI, but the impact of the threat remains. "They didn't kill me physically, but they killed my relationship with my garden, with my neighbors," she said.

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