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China and Iran are actively searching for dissidents within the US, prompting the FBI to intensify efforts to address the danger

Protestors shout and displays Covid-19 slogans (Via Win Brown/Shutterstock)

After a student leader from the Tiananmen Square protests joined a congressional race in New York in 2022, a Chinese intelligence operative quickly hired a private investigator to dig up any potential scandals such as mistresses or tax issues that could derail the candidate’s campaign, according to prosecutors.

The operative ominously remarked to his contact, “In the end, violence would be acceptable too.”

Meanwhile, while an Iranian journalist and activist living in exile in the United States criticized Iran’s human rights record, Tehran was also monitoring her activities. A group linked to Eastern European organized crime surveyed her home in Brooklyn and planned her assassination as part of a murder-for-hire scheme orchestrated from Iran, the Justice Department disclosed as it intervened to thwart the plot and pressed criminal charges.

These incidents highlight the extreme measures taken by nations like China and Iran to intimidate, harass, and occasionally plot attacks against political opponents and activists residing in the U.S.

Protestor outside Bob Fu’s home (Via Win Brown/Shutterstock)

They underscore the grave consequences that geopolitical tensions can have for ordinary citizens, as governments that historically suppress dissent within their borders increasingly extend their threatening gaze to those who speak out from thousands of miles away.

“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,” said Masih Alinejad, the Iranian journalist, in an interview.

The Justice Department has taken notice of this issue, pursuing charges against numerous individuals in the past five years for acts of transnational repression. Senior FBI officials informed The Associated Press that these tactics have become more sophisticated, involving proxies like private investigators and leaders of organized crime groups.

Moreover, countries are increasingly willing to cross “serious red lines” from mere harassment to outright violence as they seek to exert influence abroad and suppress dissenting voices.

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