Uzra Zeya, undersecretary of state for civilian security, democracy and human rights, says federal government lacks funding to meet all requests for protection
China denies targeting dissidents overseas, with foreign ministry spokesman calling US accusations a scheme to ‘hype up’ the ‘China threat’
By Owen Churchill
June 16, 2022
A screenshot of Uzra Zeya, US undersecretary of state for civilian security, democracy, and human rights, testifying before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China in Washington on Wednesday.
The top US human rights official told lawmakers on Wednesday that the federal government was struggling to finance initiatives to protect US residents from “transnational repression”, amid growing concern about China’s alleged attempts to target and silence critics overseas.
“There is limited funding currently for state programmes to support and help protect victims and individuals who are vulnerable to transnational repression, as well as the capabilities to mitigate surveillance technology and cyber threats,” Uzra Zeya, the undersecretary of state for civilian security, democracy and human rights, told the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC).
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“Year after year, we’re finding with this trend line [of repression efforts by China] we are consistently receiving more programme proposals … than we’re able to fund,” Zeya said.
Washington, along with rights groups, has accused Beijing of running operations to silence critics abroad. Those campaigns are alleged to include intimidation or threats of retaliation against family members still in China; pressuring other countries to forcibly repatriate Uygurs and other refugees – a practice known as “refoulement”; and abusing Interpol’s “red notice” system to target political opponents.
China has routinely denied targeting dissidents overseas, with foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian in March characterising US accusations as part of a scheme to “hype up the ‘China threat’” and tarnish the country’s reputation.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian has called accusations of overseas harassment a bid to “hype up the ‘China threat’ ”.
“We have never asked and will never ask Chinese citizens to do things in violation of local laws and regulations,” Zhao said.
The growing friction marks another flashpoint in already fraught US-China relations, which Washington’s ambassador to China, Nicholas Burns, last week described as likely having reached their “lowest moment” in 50 years.
Zeya told the commission that “the scale and scope of the challenge posed by the People’s Republic of China will test American diplomacy like nothing we’ve seen before.