Advocacy letter November 24, 2021
INTERPOL Must Not Legitimize Governments Committing Transnational Repression
To the Honorable Delegates of the 89th INTERPOL General Assembly,
I write today in respectful opposition to the candidacy of any Chinese government representative for a place on INTERPOL’s executive committee or in any position of leadership at INTERPOL.
Freedom House is deeply concerned that the INTERPOL system remains vulnerable to misuse by a handful of INTERPOL member countries that engage in transnational repression, a term used to describe how countries silence their exiles and diasporas abroad. Transnational repression encompasses a spectrum of tactics, from assassinations, to renditions, to spyware, to intimidation of exiles' family members who have stayed behind.
The government of China is known to have committed mass atrocities and severe rights violations at home. According to Freedom House’s research, the Chinese government also conducts the most sophisticated, global, and comprehensive campaign of transnational repression in the world. China and other nondemocratic states have abused INTERPOL’s notification system, using it to target critics, dissidents, ethnic minorities, and other vulnerable people around the world rather than helping combat serious crime as intended.
Efforts by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to pressure and control the overseas Chinese population and members of minority communities are marked by three distinctive characteristics. First, the campaign targets many groups, including multiple ethnic and religious minorities, political dissidents, human rights activists, journalists, and former insiders accused of corruption. Namely, the Chinese government targets Uyghurs, Tibetans, Falun Gong practitioners, human rights defenders, former CCP insiders, and recently, outspoken Inner Mongolians and Hong Kongers. Second, the campaign spans the full spectrum of tactics: direct attacks like renditions, co-opting other countries to detain and render exiles, mobility controls, digital threats, spyware, and coercion by proxy. Third, the sheer breadth and global scale of the campaign is unparalleled.
The Chinese government has misused the INTERPOL system by issuing Red Notices and Diffusions to pursue not only former officials sought as part of China’s global “anti-corruption” campaign, but also peaceful rights activists and members from ethnic minority groups like the Uyghurs. Despite the fact that some notices have been cancelled or withdrawn, the Chinese government has used INTERPOL’s reputation to legitimate its campaign of transnational repression both domestically and internationally. This has seriously harmed the organization’s global standing and unjustly infringed upon the basic rights and freedom of movement of the targeted individuals.
We urge delegates to vote against any candidate representing a government that engages in severe human rights violations at home and abroad, especially those with a track record of misusing the INTERPOL system to commit acts of transnational repression. Governments that violate the letter and spirit of INTERPOL’s constitution should not be elevated to positions of leadership within INTERPOL. The election of a Chinese government official to the executive committee or any other position of leadership could endanger tens of thousands of Chinese dissidents and members of ethnic and religious minority communities, and would send a green light to other governments that may be interested in misusing INTERPOL to pursue government critics.
Thank you in advance for your consideration of our concerns.
Michael J. Abramowitz