On The Tiananmen Anniversary, The Senate Is Pushing Back On China’s Provocations

31 Years After The Chinese Communist Party Killed Pro-Democracy Protesters In Tiananmen Square, The Senate Is Leading The Way Confronting Beijing’s Challenges To The Global Order


SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH McCONNELL (R-KY): “Today marks the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing. Because of China’s censorship and disinformation, we still do not know how many brave Chinese people were killed by their own government on June 4th, 1989…. Never since have Chinese people been able to freely and openly remember the atrocity. Never, outside the oasis of Hong Kong, has a single formal gathering on Chinese soil been permitted to commemorate the victims. Now even that oasis of freedom is at risk. We learned this week that under new pressure from Beijing, Hong Kong is refusing to permit the annual candlelight vigil for the first time ever. This year, the CCP wants no candles lit, even in Hong Kong. Just more darkness. Thirty-one years ago, brave Chinese flooded that public square and others across their nation in the fervent hope that economic liberalization would also lead to a less authoritarian, more open society. What they got were bodies littering the ground.” (Sen. McConnell, Remarks, 6/04/2020)

  • SEN. McCONNELL: “The last few months have been their own tidy case study in what kind of global actor the ‘so-called’ People’s Republic has chosen to be. Their response to the coronavirus pandemic that started in their own country was to silence their own doctors, imprison their own people, shut down important research, and lie to the rest of the world while hoarding supplies for themselves. The CCP’s selfishness and failures fueled a worldwide catastrophe. And ever since, they’ve tried to use that catastrophe as a smokescreen for other aggression. While they thought the rest of the world was distracted, China has: Cracked down on Hong Kong; conducted provocative military exercises near Taiwan; expanded their bullying in the South China Sea. Pressured the Philippines; and literally initiated physical fighting with India in the Himalayas. Oh, and according to press reports, they’ve also found the time to mount online disinformation campaigns to hurt America and divide us among ourselves.” (Sen. McConnell, Remarks, 6/04/2020)

SENATE MAJORITY WHIP JOHN THUNE (R-SD): “I don’t need to tell anyone that we should be wary of China’s motives and that China’s interests are frequently opposed to those of the United States. China’s handling of the coronavirus is a striking current example of the Chinese Government’s prioritizing its own interests or pride over the public good…. Whether it was driven by the hubris of the Communist Party or merely the callous indifference the Communist state has for the well-being of its own citizens, China was not transparent about the grave danger of COVID-19. It failed to release accurate information about the nature and spread of the virus, and it took active steps to make sure the truth did not get out in other ways. Whistleblowers were punished; the centers were censored; and journalists were expelled. Despite the fact that its negligence undoubtedly contributed to the global spread of COVID-19, China still continues to be less than forthcoming about the virus. Unfortunately, this is run-of-the-mill governing in China …” (Sen. Thune, Congressional Record, S.2663, 6/03/2020)

  • SEN. THUNE: “Not content with its role in aggravating the spread of the coronavirus, the Chinese Communist Party has also taken advantage of the pandemic to strip Hong Kong of its autonomy and freedom. China’s hope is that our Nation is too preoccupied with this pandemic to notice its efforts to undermine what should be Hong Kong’s autonomy under the one state, two systems construct. We have noticed. As many of my colleagues and I have expressed, we stand with Hong Kong. We must carefully consider an appropriate response, one that will rebuke the Communist Party of China without negatively affecting the people of Hong Kong, their well-being, and their democratic aspirations.” (Sen. Thune, Congressional Record, S.2663, 6/03/2020)


The Senate Recently Passed Two Key Pieces Of Legislation Responding To The Chinese Communist Party’s Crackdown On Hong Kong And Human Rights Abuses In Xinjiang Province

“The Senate… unanimously passed legislation in support of Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters by empowering the Trump administration to impose sanctions on Hong Kong or Chinese officials who take actions that violate human rights. … The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act would require the secretary of State to certify, at least once a year, whether Hong Kong continues to warrant special treatment under U.S. law based on a number of criteria, including the autonomy of its government decision-making related to human rights, law enforcement and extradition requests.” (“Senate Passes Bill In Support Of Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Protesters,” Politico, 11/19/2019)

  • “Building on the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992 authored by Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), this amended bipartisan bill would require the Secretary of State to certify, no less than annually, whether Hong Kong continues to warrant special treatment under U.S. law based on the autonomy of its government decision-making related to human rights, law enforcement and extradition requests, universal suffrage, judicial independence, police and security functions, export controls, and sanctions enforcement. The legislation would also mandate the President to impose sanctions against foreign persons determined to be responsible for extrajudicial rendition, arbitrary detention, torture, or forced confession of people in Hong Kong, or other gross violations of human rights in Hong Kong.  In addition, the bill would task the Executive Branch to develop a strategy to protect American citizens and others in Hong Kong from rendition or abduction to China, and to report annually to Congress on violations of U.S. export controls laws and United Nations sanctions occurring in Hong Kong.” (Sen. Rubio, Press Release, 11/14/2019)

“The Senate … approved a bill to sanction Chinese government officials responsible for forced labor camps in the region of Xinjiang, where up to 2 million ethnic Muslims have been forcibly detained, in the latest congressional move to strengthen the US stance toward China. The legislation, titled the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020, condemns the Chinese Communist Party for the camps and recommends a tougher response to the human rights abuses suffered by Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities in the region.” (“Senate Approves Uyghur Human Rights Bill,” CNN, 5/14/2020)

  • SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): “The Chinese Government and Communist Party’s systematic, ongoing efforts to wipe out the ethnic and cultural identities of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang is horrific and will be a stain on humanity should we refuse to act… I thank my Senate colleagues for working together to send a clear message to Chinese officials responsible for egregious human rights abuses committed against the Uyghurs that they will be held accountable.” (Sen. Rubio, Press Release, 5/14/2020)


The Hong Kong Human Rights And Democracy Act Was Used By The Administration To Begin Responding To The Chinese Government’s Newest Assault On Hong Kong’s Autonomy

“U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Congress on Wednesday that Hong Kong no longer qualifies for its special status under U.S. law … China had undermined Hong Kong’s autonomy so fundamentally, Pompeo said, that he could not support its recertification for its special pre-1997 trading status…. The ‘Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act’ approved by Trump last year requires the State Department to certify at least annually that Hong Kong retains enough autonomy to justify the favorable U.S. trading terms that have helped it remain a world financial center.” (“Hong Kong No Longer Deserves Special U.S. Status, Pompeo Says,” Reuters, 5/26/2020)

  • “[Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo said China’s plan to impose the new legislation was ‘only the latest in a series of actions that fundamentally undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms.’ ‘No reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground,’ he said…. ‘It is now clear that China is modeling Hong Kong after itself,’ Pompeo said.” (“Hong Kong No Longer Deserves Special U.S. Status, Pompeo Says,” Reuters, 5/26/2020)
  • “The determination, required under federal law, amounted to a U.S. condemnation of China’s announcement of plans to impose greater control over Hong Kong, a move which triggered renewed protests against Beijing…. The decision opens the way for President Trump to take a range of possible measures, from revoking special arrangements on trade to imposing sanctions on individuals involved in suppressing civil liberties in the territory.” (“U.S. Officially Declares That Hong Kong Is No Longer Autonomous,” The Wall Street Journal, 5/27/2020)


An Emboldened Chinese Communist Party Is Taking Advantage Of The Pandemic With Aggressive Moves To Crack Down On Dissent, Expand Its Influence, Flex Its Military Muscle, And Confront Its Neighbors And Western Democracies

“With Washington and its allies distracted by the pandemic and its economic fallout, [Xi Jinping] is taking bold steps on issues where he’s often faced international pushback, including Hong Kong, Taiwan, the South China Sea and a disputed border with India.” (“Beyond Hong Kong, an Emboldened Xi Jinping Pushes the Boundaries,” The Wall Street Journal, 5/29/2020)

“In an indication of China’s determination to close the gap with the U.S. militarily, last Friday it announced a 6.6% rise in defense spending. That’s lower than its increase of 7.5% for 2019 but still a substantial amount given this year’s projected 0.2% drop in total government expenditure.” (“Beyond Hong Kong, an Emboldened Xi Jinping Pushes the Boundaries,” The Wall Street Journal, 5/29/2020)

‘The Most Dramatic Of China’s Moves Came Last Week When It Announced It Would Impose New National-Security Laws On Hong Kong,’ ‘Overriding The Territory’s Partial Autonomy In A Bid To Crush Anti-Beijing Protests’

“The most dramatic of China’s moves came last week when it announced it would impose new national-security laws on Hong Kong, granting Beijing broad powers to target critics in the former British colony.” (“Beyond Hong Kong, an Emboldened Xi Jinping Pushes the Boundaries,” The Wall Street Journal, 5/29/2020)

  • “China’s legislature approved a resolution to impose national-security laws on Hong Kong, overriding the territory’s partial autonomy in a bid to crush anti-Beijing protests that have challenged Chinese leader Xi Jinping. Thursday’s vote, at the end of a weeklong session of the National People’s Congress, paves the way for Beijing to implement legal and enforcement measures in Hong Kong that mirror how mainland Chinese agencies police activities that challenge Communist Party rule.” (“China Votes to Override Hong Kong’s Autonomy on National Security,” The Wall Street Journal, 5/28/2020)

“Hong Kong made mocking China’s national anthem a crime on Thursday, passing a contentious law on the anniversary of the Chinese military’s bloody crackdown on the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement. The move adds to fears that the space in Hong Kong for speech critical of Beijing will continue to shrink, as China’s ruling Communist Party tightens its control over the semiautonomous city after a year of antigovernment protests…. Hong Kong’s legislature, which is dominated by pro-Beijing lawmakers, passed a separate piece of legislation on Thursday that would criminalize disrespect for China’s national anthem and make it punishable by up to three years in prison.” (“On Tiananmen Anniversary, Hong Kong Makes Mocking China’s Anthem a Crime,” The New York Times, 6/4/2020)

Ahead Of The 31st Anniversary Of The Tiananmen Square Massacre, The Chinese Government Banned Hong Kong’s Annual Vigil Commemorating The Victims

“Hong Kong on Monday prohibited for the first time the annual June 4 vigil to honor victims of the pro-democracy Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, which the Chinese government crushed with deadly force. The prohibition order was issued by the Hong Kong police force, and came less than a week after the Chinese Communist authorities in Beijing moved to enact new security laws on the former British colony.” (“Hong Kong Bans Tiananmen Vigil For 1st Time, In New Challenge To Protests,” The New York Times, 6/1/2020)

“An annual vigil commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre will not take place in Hong Kong this year, after police refused organizers permission to hold a mass gathering during the coronavirus pandemic. On June 4, 1989 Chinese troops cracked down on pro-democracy protesters around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. No official death toll has ever been released, but rights groups estimate hundreds, if not thousands were killed.” (“For The First Time In 30 Years, Hong Kong Will Not Hold A Mass Vigil Commemorating The Tiananmen Square Massacre,” CNN, 6/1/2020)

Chinese Leaders Began Using More Threatening Language Towards Taiwan

“At the opening of a yearly parliament meeting last week, China’s Premier Li Keqiang also flagged a more aggressive posture toward Taiwan, a self-ruled, democratic island that Beijing sees as its territory. In references to dealing with and assimilating the island in an annual policy speech, he dropped China’s usual calls for a ‘peaceful’ approach—a departure from nearly 30 years of precedent. Other senior leaders also renewed warnings against efforts to seek Taiwan’s independence, saying that a forceful takeover remains an option even though they prefer a peaceful solution. Chinese military ships and planes have staged several drills near Taiwan this year in what the island’s defense ministry says are attempts to intimidate Taipei into making concessions on sovereignty, and to distract from Beijing’s early coronavirus missteps.” (“Beyond Hong Kong, an Emboldened Xi Jinping Pushes the Boundaries,” The Wall Street Journal, 5/29/2020)

Chinese Troops Provoked New Tensions With India Along Their Long-Disputed Border

“A long-running border dispute between China and India flared again in the past few weeks after Chinese troops moved into a contested Himalayan area close to where India has been upgrading infrastructure, prompting fistfights between the two sides…. [O]bservers say this is one of the bigger standoffs since the two sides fought a war in the area in 1962, and unusual in that China appears to be objecting to India’s road building in an area where Indian forces have long operated.” (“Beyond Hong Kong, an Emboldened Xi Jinping Pushes the Boundaries,” The Wall Street Journal, 5/29/2020)

‘China Has Pressed Forward On Expanding Its Military Footprint … Most Evident In The South China Sea’

“From the waters of the Pacific and Indian Oceans to the heights of the Himalayas, China has pressed forward on expanding its military footprint…. It is most evident in the South China Sea. Beijing has continued with its yearslong strategy of pressing maximal territorial claims. Turning outcroppings of rock into full islands, it is forming a bulwark against the claims of competing nations and against the findings of a 2016 international tribunal, which sought to limit China’s aggressive maritime actions.” (“As Virus Toll Preoccupies U.S., Rivals Test Limits of American Power,” The New York Times, 6/01/2020)

China’s ‘Wolf Warrior’ Diplomats ‘Around The World Are Taking On Foes Big And Small’ And Are Waging An ‘Information War’ On COVID-19 After Learning From Russian Disinformation Campaigns

“As China asserts itself globally, its diplomats around the world are taking on foes big and small. The brash new attitude, playing out on social media, in newsprint and across negotiating tables, marks a turn for China’s once low-key diplomats. It’s part of a deliberate shift within the Foreign Ministry, spurred on by Chinese leaders seeking to claim what they see as their nation’s rightful place in the world … China’s state media describe it as a ‘Wolf Warrior’ ethos—named for a nationalistic Chinese film franchise about a Rambo-like soldier-turned-security contractor who battles American-led mercenary groups.” (“China’s ‘Wolf Warrior’ Diplomats Are Ready to Fight,” The Wall Street Journal, 5/19/2020)

  • “China has launched a Twitter offensive in the COVID-19 information war, more than doubling its number of official government tweets since January and in recent days using the platform to spread a conspiracy theory that the virus came from a U.S. government lab…. China previously focused on amplifying positive messaging around China and censoring damaging and critical information, but now the Chinese have learned from Russian disinformation campaigns, according to experts tracking both countries’ online messaging.” (“China Launches New Twitter Accounts, 90,000 Tweets In COVID-19 Info War,” NBC News, 6/03/2020)


REMINDER: ‘State Secrecy In China Probably Allowed The Coronavirus To Spread Farther And Faster’

“Early missteps and state secrecy in China probably allowed the coronavirus to spread farther and faster … Medical professionals who tried to sound an alarm were seized by police. Key state media omitted mention of the outbreak for weeks. Cadres focused on maintaining stability — and praising party leader Xi Jinping — as the crisis worsened. ‘China’s public health system has modernized, but China’s political system hasn’t,’ said Jude Blanchette, head of China studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. ‘If anything, there’s been a regression.’ … It is clear, now, that Chinese officials soon knew something was amiss…. While scientists and public health experts scrambled to collect more information, China’s security services tried to smother it. On Jan. 1, the Wuhan Public Security Bureau summoned eight people for posting and spreading ‘rumors’ about Wuhan hospitals receiving SARS-like cases — detentions that were reported on ‘Xinwen Lianbo,’ a newscast watched by tens of millions. The police followed up in the state-run Xinhua News Agency with a chilling warning. ‘The police call on all netizens to not fabricate rumors, not spread rumors, not believe rumors,’ the Wuhan authorities said … All eight people detained that day were doctors …” (“Early Missteps And State Secrecy In China Probably Allowed The Coronavirus To Spread Farther And Faster,” The Washington Post, 2/01/2020)

  • “Throughout January, the World Health Organization publicly praised China for what it called a speedy response to the new coronavirus…. But behind the scenes, it was a much different story, one of significant delays by China and considerable frustration among WHO officials over not getting the information they needed to fight the spread of the deadly virus, The Associated Press has found. Despite the plaudits, China in fact sat on releasing the genetic map, or genome, of the virus for more than a week after three different government labs had fully decoded the information. Tight controls on information and competition within the Chinese public health system were to blame, according to dozens of interviews and internal documents. Chinese government labs only released the genome after another lab published it ahead of authorities on a virologist website on Jan. 11. Even then, China stalled for at least two weeks more on providing WHO with detailed data on patients and cases, according to recordings of internal meetings held by the U.N. health agency through January — all at a time when the outbreak arguably might have been dramatically slowed.” (“China Delayed Releasing Coronavirus Info, Frustrating WHO,” The Associated Press, 6/03/2020)



Related Issues: COVID-19, China, National Security