Cotton warns China: Crackdown on Hong Kong would be 'grave miscalculation'

Cotton warns China: Crackdown on Hong Kong would be 'grave miscalculation'
© Aaron Schwartz

Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonTom Cotton's only Democratic rival quits race in Arkansas Schumer concerned by Army's use of TikTok, other Chinese social media platforms Progressive freshmen jump into leadership PAC fundraising MORE (R-Ark.) told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt a crackdown by China on ongoing demonstrations in Hong Kong would be a “grave” mistake.

“[I]t 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,” Cotton told Hewitt Tuesday.

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“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,” he added.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoImpeachment battle looms over must-pass defense bill Five takeaways from ex-ambassador's dramatic testimony Pompeo: No US response ruled out in Hong Kong MORE has expressed hopes that Beijing will “do the right thing” in response to the protests, while President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump reversed course on flavored e-cigarette ban over fear of job losses: report Trump to award National Medal of Arts to actor Jon Voight Sondland notified Trump officials of investigation push ahead of Ukraine call: report MORE has been more noncommittal, calling Chinese President Xi Jinping a “good man” in a “tough business” and expressing confidence in Xi’s capacity to “quickly and humanely solve the Hong Kong problem.”

Asked by Hewitt if Trump had done enough to discourage a heavy-handed Chinese response to the demonstrations, Cotton said that while he didn’t want to comment on Trump’s private remarks, “we should reconsider in a fundamental way our relationship with Beijing should they crack down or impose martial law on Hong Kong.”

The protests began months ago over a since-suspended bill that would have allowed the extradition of criminal suspects to China. Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's chief executive, announced that she was suspending the bill, but broader pro-democracy protests have continued, with demonstrators calling for her resignation and an independent investigation into police brutality against protesters.

To apply pressure on Beijing, Cotton said the U.S. "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."

Cotton said similar steps should have been taken after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.