Republicans urge Blinken, Yellen to press China on human rights, trade, aggression during trip

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left) speaks during a press conference on Jan. 31, 2023. He and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen (right) are expected to travel to China in February. (AP/Ronaldo Schmeidt/Yesica Fisch)

More than a dozen Republican senators sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Tuesday to urge them to push China on issues of human rights, trade and its aggression in the Indo-Pacific region during their upcoming trips to the country. 

The 14 senators said in the letter that they should hold the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) accountable for its human rights abuses, “unfair” trade practices and “increasing aggression” in the region and throughout the world. 

“Anything less would be a concession to our country’s greatest threat,” they said.

The letter was signed by Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Bill Cassidy (La.), Eric Schmitt (Mo.), Dan Sullivan (Alaska), Kevin Cramer (N.D.), Ted Budd (N.C.), Rick Scott (Fla.), Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), Pete Ricketts (Neb.), John Hoeven (N.D.) and Bill Hagerty (Tenn.).

The senators said the CCP is the “worst offender” of human rights and noted that both the Trump and Biden administrations concluded that China’s actions against the Uyghurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority in the Xinjiang province, and other ethnic minorities are considered genocide and crimes against humanity. 

They asserted that the CCP is also denying basic human rights to groups that it determines to be a threat to the Chinese government, like Tibetans and Christians, and has wrongfully detained numerous U.S. citizens and their family members.

“You must make clear that the United States will not cooperate with a regime that uses hostages as bargaining chips,” the letter reads.

The senators also said Blinken and Yellen should confront China on its “long history” of unfair trade practices and industrial espionage, which has hurt the U.S. economy. They referenced claims that the CCP has engaged in a campaign to steal U.S. intellectual property and research and abused privileges in the world trading system to establish itself as a leader in “critical” industries like pharmaceuticals and commodities. 

They said “much more” needs to happen to balance the U.S. economic relationship with China. 

The GOP senators said China has had “unacceptable and provocative behavior” around the Taiwan Strait and across the Himalayan border with India, where territory is disputed. China has stepped up military exercises in the area around Taiwan in recent months in what has been viewed as threats to the self-governing, democratic island. 

They noted that China has set up “police” offices and intelligence collection outposts in the U.S., Japan and Europe to suppress dissidents and stay on top of people it considers threats. 

“We respectfully request that you use your visits to impress the aforementioned points upon your PRC counterparts, as well as convey that the United States will no longer tolerate such abuses against American citizens, American businesses, and American allies,” they wrote.

The letter comes after Yellen met with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in Switzerland last month to discuss the country’s economies. The Treasury Department has said Yellen plans to visit China “in the near future.” 

Blinken is also reportedly expected to visit China next month.

Tags Antony Blinken Antony Blinken China human rights Janet Yellen Janet Yellen Marco Rubio Taiwan U.S.-China relations

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