Washington: Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden vowed Wednesday to impose economic sanctions against China if it threatens U.S. citizens’ First Amendment rights, just as Beijing enacted a new security law that is aimed at tamping down opposition to the ruling Communist Party.
Calling the law a “death blow” to Hong Kong’s freedom and autonomy, Biden said he would also bar U.S. companies from playing a role in aiding China’s “surveillance state.”
The new law would impose sentences of up to life in prison for a variety of offenses, including colluding with foreign forces, secession and subversion. Chinese President Xi Jinping signed the law Tuesday after a secretive and speedy process that did not allow for serious input from Hong Kong authorities.
Biden said in a statement that he would “prohibit U.S. companies from abetting repression and supporting the Chinese Communist Party’s surveillance state” and “impose swift economic sanctions” if Beijing “tries to silence U.S. citizens, companies, and institutions for exercising their First Amendment rights.”
The former vice president also committed to “take stronger steps to prevent imports from forced labor” in Xinjiang, the region where the United Nations estimates more than a million Uighurs have been detained in camps.
The Trump administration is readying long-delayed sanctions targeting Chinese officials over the human-rights abuses against Uighurs. The sanctions are likely to target Communist Party officials responsible for the internment and persecution of minorities in Xinjiang, Bloomberg News reported Wednesday, citing two people familiar with the matter.
Biden blamed President Donald Trump for creating the conditions that have allowed Xi to act “with impunity.”
“Time and again, President Trump has surrendered our values and reassured China’s autocrats they have a like-minded partner in the White House,” he said. “Trump’s record on Beijing’s human rights abuses is indefensible, marked by desperation for a failing trade deal, fealty to Xi Jinping, and an open admission that he’s willing to turn a blind eye to even the worst atrocities.”
The administration’s relationship with China has soured since Trump signed “phase one” trade agreement and the coronavirus pandemic made elements of the deal less relevant. At the same time, U.S. officials have stepped up their criticism of the Chinese Communist Party’s human-rights abuses and the erosion of political freedoms in Hong Kong.-Bloomberg