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 Cotton2020 Democrats raise alarm about China's intellectual property theft Bolton returns to political group after exiting administration Meadows, Cotton introduce bill to prevent district judges from blocking federal policy changes 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 PompeoOvernight Defense: Trump says he has 'many options' on Iran | Hostage negotiator chosen for national security adviser | Senate Dems block funding bill | Documents show Pentagon spent at least 4K at Trump's Scotland resort Trump says he has 'many options' on Iran Trump doubles down on Graham: 'How did going into Iraq work out?' MORE has expressed hopes that Beijing will “do the right thing” in response to the protests, while President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump conversation with foreign leader part of complaint that led to standoff between intel chief, Congress: report Pelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Trump to withdraw FEMA chief nominee: 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.