Trump, Republicans Sharply Split on China
Pedestrians walk on a staircase in front of a screen displaying messages celebrating the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China. (Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg)

Trump, Republicans Sharply Split on China

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. lawmakers harshly criticized China’s Communist Party, drawing a sharp contrast with President Donald Trump’s congratulatory message to counterpart Xi Jinping on the People’s Republic’s 70th anniversary.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said the occasion served as a reminder of the “many millions of lives lost under Chinese communist rule.” On Tuesday, Xi presided over a military parade showcasing weapons designed to counter U.S. might, while pro-democracy demonstrators battled police in the former British colony of Hong Kong.

Trump, Republicans Sharply Split on China

“Xi Jinping’s China looks disturbingly like a modern version of Maoist China,” McConnell said. Fellow Republican Senators Tom Cotton and Ben Sasse called attention to the Hong Kong protests, with Cotton saying the dissent shows the price of “a ghoulish 70 years of Chinese Communist Party control.”

Trump offered only a message of congratulations in a tweet Tuesday morning:

The parade in Beijing and the protests in Hong Kong highlighted the underlying divides between the U.S. and China, even as they work to resolve their year-long trade war. In Tiananmen Square, Xi rolled out the fruits of efforts to erode American military dominance in the Western Pacific, including a new ballistic missile with a hypersonic glide vehicle and a stealth fighter.

Hong Kong, meanwhile, saw some of its worst violence since protests erupted against a now-scrapped proposal to allow extraditions to mainland China almost four months ago. Police shot and wounded an 18-year-old student who was engaged in a scuffle with a group of riot police in the city’s northwestern area of Tsuen Wan, the first time a demonstrator had been hit by a bullet during the unrest.

Trump, Republicans Sharply Split on China

The police’s use of force against protesters, including tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons, has drawn international criticism. Both chambers of the U.S. Congress are advancing legislation that would require an annual review of whether Hong Kong remains sufficiently autonomous from Beijing to justify special trading status.

“Today, Chinese tyrants celebrated 70 years of communist oppression with their typically brutal symbolism: by sending a police officer to shoot a pro-democracy protester at point-blank range,” said Sasse, who represents Nebraska.

Police said their officers’ lives were “under serious threat” and protesters ignored warnings before the weapon was fired. The injured protester had the bullet removed in operation and was expected to survive, even though he remains in critical condition, local broadcaster Cable TV reported.

While Trump has received bipartisan praise for taking a stronger stance against China’s trade practices and theft of intellectual property, some lawmakers from both parties have urged him to hold China accountable for human rights abuses. The two countries are also negotiating a trade truce after scaling up tariffs that are beginning to drag on economic growth in both countries.

In a speech to the United Nations last week, Trump urged Xi to find a peaceful solution to the unrest in Hong Kong. “How China chooses to handle the situation will say a great deal about its role in the world in the future,” Trump said at the time, before praising Xi.

Senator Pat Toomey, a free-trade Republican, said human rights violations are “systemic” in China and that “the Orwellian surveillance state constructed by Xi should give everyone pause.”

Representatives Liz Cheney -- a member of the House Republican leadership -- and Mike Gallagher said the anniversary wasn’t “a day for celebration” and called it “an opportunity to remember the victims, past and present, of the Chinese Communist Party.”

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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