Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas issued a warning to the Chinese government to “not crack down” on protesters in Hong Kong.
Cotton discussed Hong Kong’s ongoing pro-democracy protests — which entered its 11th week last week — during an appearance on Hugh Hewitt’s nationally syndicated radio show, Breitbart reported Tuesday.
“I will reiterate now, as I have over the last three weeks, that it 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 said.
“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.
About 1.7 million demonstrators took to the streets to demand democracy last Sunday. The demonstration began when an extradition bill was proposed that would have allowed individuals charged with crimes in Hong Kong to be extradited to mainland China for prosecution.
The Chinese government has made several attempts to control the media narrative and public opinion.
In one attempt to control the media narrative last week, China urged media outlets to correct what they consider biased reporting about Hong Kong by sending more than 30 letters to outlets on Tuesday.
The letters included a “41-page dossier of news clippings” showing alleged bias toward the Hong Kong conflict and urged for “impartial” and “objective” reporting on the Hong Kong protests.
Additionally, a rap group sponsored by the Chinese Communist Party released a song last week to rally public support in opposition to protesters in Hong Kong, and the lyrics included language threatening to wipe out the protesters.
“There are 1.4 billion Chinese standing firmly behind Hong Kong police,” the lyrics state. “They will always protect Hong Kong without any hesitation. Airplanes, tanks and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army all gathering in Shenzhen waiting for command to wipe out terrorists [protesters] if needed.”
“I’m not seeing any publicly available evidence that Beijing is trying to deescalate [sic] the tension in Hong Kong,” Cotton said.
“Now, to be fair, we haven’t seen any publicly available evidence that they are beginning to exert physical force against the protesters,” he added. “There’s been some evidence that they are using subterfuge, espionage, cyberattacks to undercut the protesters, but as you saw over the weekend, that certainly did nothing to deter the huge protests on Hong Kong Island.”
“I think probably one of the key red lines for Xi Jinping and Beijing is whether these protests gain any kind of traction and begin to be replicated on any kind of scale on the mainland,” Cotton said.