A rising number of countries are turning to abductions, violence or deportations against citizens abroad to silence dissent, with China the biggest violator, a US democracy research group said Thursday.
Freedom House in a report identified 854 direct incidents of “transnational repression” carried out by 38 governments since 2014.
Twenty governments were responsible for such actions in 2022 including, for the first time, Bangladesh and Djibouti, it said.
The report said that 30 percent of all cases since 2014 originated from China’s government, including attempts to pressure other nations to forcibly return members of the Uyghur minority, against whom the United States alleges a campaign of genocide, denied by Beijing.
“Despite growing awareness of the problem, more authoritarian governments are attempting to exert control over diaspora and exile communities,” said Michael Abramowitz, the president of Freedom House, which is largely funded by the United States but independent.
The report recommended that governments develop plans to stop transnational repression, including by imposing targeted sanctions and restricting security assistance.
After China, the top origin state according to the report was Turkey, which has pursued exiles since a 2016 coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and has used the NATO membership bid of Sweden to seek, so far unsuccessfully, the handover of several people.
Other nations with a high number of cases include Russia, which has turned in particular to Kazakhstan to seek citizens fleeing because of the Ukraine war, and Tajikistan, which in turn worked with Moscow to return members of the Pamiri diaspora accused of separatism, it said.
The report also pointed to Egypt, which sought a dual national with US citizenship who was detained in Dubai after he called for protests in Egypt. Emirati authorities released him after seven weeks.
Belarus, Iran and Rwanda were also alleged to be behind incidents.
Bangladesh was added over a case involving its former ambassador to Malaysia who refused to return home after a change of power in Dhaka and was briefly held by Malaysian authorities.
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