U.S. Senate Committee condemns PRC’s cross-border suppression, cites threats to Jimmy Lai’s legal team

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Ben Cardin

7th December 2023 – (Washington) The chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Ben Cardin, asserted during a hearing on Wednesday that China is among the most complex nations globally in utilizing cross-border suppression tactics. He announced that the US will soon introduce new legislative measures related to addressing cross-border suppression operations. Representing media mogul Jimmy Lai, barrister Gallagher disclosed that Lai’s son faced threats from Chinese official media for advocating his father’s release. Gallagher also highlighted that the international legal teams representing both Lai and his son are targets of cross-border suppression operations.

The hearing primarily focused on human rights violations in China, Russia, and Iran. Cardin described how modern technology has significantly expanded the scope of government cross-border suppression, posing a severe threat to the safety of dispersed communities living overseas and in exile. The committee criticized India for its alleged role in planning the assassination of a Sikh leader in Canada and the U.S. Senator Kaine of Virginia stated, “We often say that India is the largest democratic country, but this is not the behaviour of a respected democratic country.”

Gallagher further elaborated that Jimmy Lai’s legal team and his son are being harassed with death and rape threats to discourage advocacy for the jailed pro-democracy businessman. They are regularly targeted by Hong Kong authorities, Chinese state media, and anonymous internet users. Gallagher highlighted the coordinated campaign of abuse, particularly intensified during high-profile events and key case dates.

Lai, the founder of clothing brand Giordano and pro-democracy Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily, was arrested in 2020 and charged with violating Hong Kong’s national security law. He was sentenced to five years and nine months in prison after being convicted of fraud and is awaiting trial for the original charges of violating the controversial national security law.

Gallagher emphasised that the threats underscore the comprehensive and sophisticated efforts by China and Hong Kong to silence dissent and critical voices and to shut down international scrutiny of their actions. The testimony was described as “chilling information” by Senator Ben Cardin, who pointed out that autocracies like China are attempting to export their repression into free societies.

The committee also discussed the potentially extensive collection of DNA in China and how it could make it harder for dissidents to escape into safety.