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Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen Delivers Remarks at Press Conference Announcing Transnational Repression Charges


Washington, DC
United States

Good afternoon. We are here to announce three important cases, unsealed today in the Eastern District of New York.

These cases expose attempts by the government of the People’s Republic of China to suppress dissenting voices within the United States. They demonstrate how the PRC seeks to stalk, intimidate, and silence those who oppose it.

In discussing these cases, I want to reiterate that the department remains focused on the actions of the PRC government and its agents – not the Chinese people or those of Chinese descent, who are often the victims of these crimes. While separate matters, these three cases are all very much related.

One shows an insidious strategy to collect information on dissidents in order to target them and in some cases to imprison pro-democracy advocates abroad. One case describes a conspiracy to derail the congressional candidacy of an American citizen and a military veteran, who also was a former student protestor at the 1989 Tiananmen protest and later escaped to the United States. And one shows a campaign to surveil and harass an artist engaged in free and peaceful expression.

All three cases show that if you report such abuse, U.S. law enforcement will respond, and demonstrate that law enforcement was able to disrupt these plots and bring perpetrators to justice.

Last month, when I announced the National Security Division’s new strategy for countering nation-state threats, I said that our approach would be driven by the greatest threats, including the alarming rise in transnational repression. This is an example of what I meant.

Authoritarian states around the world feel emboldened to reach beyond their borders to intimidate or exact reprisals against individuals who dare to speak out against oppression and corruption.

For example, the Department of Justice has recently brought charges against individuals involved in Belarus’s forced diversion of a commercial flight to arrest and detain a Belarusian journalist and dissident. We’ve pursued those who participated in Iranian plots targeting dissidents living here, including one conspiracy to kidnap an American-Iranian activist in New York.

We’ve prosecuted agents of Russia and Egypt for illegally surveilling and targeting dissidents of those authoritarian regimes. And we’ve exposed attempts by the PRC and Saudi Arabia to deploy agents inside technology companies to obtain private information on critics and to impede the exercise of free speech.

Today, we add three more cases to this list.

For the Justice Department, defending American institutions and values against these threats is a national security imperative. Transnational repression is part of the range of tactics our adversaries employ to try to undermine our democracy, our economy, and our institutions. And it is a threat not only to people in the United States, but also to people around the world who seek to exercise their basic rights to freedom of expression and to stand up to authoritarianism.

This activity is antithetical to fundamental American values – we will not tolerate such repression here when it violates our laws. We will defend the rights of Americans and those who come to live, work and study in the United States. We will not allow any foreign government to deny them the freedom of speech or the protection of our laws or to threaten their safety or the safety of their families.

Today’s cases, which U.S. Attorney Breon Peace will talk more about in a moment, demonstrate that the Department of Justice will protect American democracy and ensure all those within our borders have access to equal justice under the rule of law and enjoy the protection of the U.S. Constitution.

As I said these alleged plots are separate cases, and each will be prosecuted based on the facts and the law in a federal court room, and each of these defendants is presumed innocent unless or until they are proved guilty in a court of law.

Authoritarian regimes seek to deprive people of their human rights and fundamental freedoms. These cases reflect the United States’ commitment to ensuring that freedom and justice prevail.

Now I’ll turn it over to U.S. Attorney Peace who will lay out today’s charges.

National Security
Updated March 16, 2022