Cotton: ‘A Grave Miscalculation of Historic Proportion for Beijing to Crack Down on Hong Kong’

Tuesday on Hugh Hewitt’s nationally syndicated radio show, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) reiterated his warning to the Chinese government regarding any effort to “crack down” on protesters in Hong Kong.

“I will reiterate now, as I have over the last three weeks, that it would be a grave miscalculation of historic proportion for Beijing to crack down on Hong Kong, to invade Hong Kong territory with the People’s Armed Police, or to declare martial law that would require a fundamental reassessment of our relationship with the People’s Republic of China,” he said. “I’m glad to see so many other of my peers in Congress have come around and stated this view publicly as well. And increasingly, we get indications from the administration, too.”

The Arkansas Republican was asked if he had seen any signs of the Chinese government considering another option regarding the situation in Hong Kong.

“I’m not seeing any publicly-available evidence that Beijing is trying to deescalate the tension in Hong Kong,” Cotton said. “Now, to be fair, we haven’t seen any publicly-available evidence that they are beginning to exert physical force against the protesters. There’s been some evidence that they are using subterfuge, espionage, cyberattacks to undercut the protesters, but as you saw over the weekend, that certainly did nothing to deter the huge protests on Hong Kong Island. I think probably one of the key red lines for Xi Jinping and Beijing is whether these protests gain any kind of traction and begin to be replicated on any kind of scale on the mainland.”

Hewitt asked Cotton about potential consequences for China should they take a more aggressive tack.

“I don’t want to comment on what the President has conveyed privately, but we should reconsider in a fundamental way our relationship with Beijing should they crack down or impose martial law on Hong Kong. So a few steps that we might take is to substantially change the Hong Kong Policy Act, which is what gives Hong Kong its favored status under U.S. law,” he added. “For instance, no products coming from Hong Kong today are facing the tariffs that the products from the mainland face. We ought to reconsider the kind of visas that we give to senior-level Chinese officials, or the number of Chinese nationals we allow into our universities. We could also just say simply that trade talks will no longer go forward and the tariffs will remain in place. These are the kind of steps, these are the kind of steps that we ought to have taken after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 when the geopolitical situation had changed so much from the initial opening to China in the 1970s.”

Follow Jeff Poor on Twitter @jeff_poor

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