One Republican senator is pressing the secretary of state to hold China’s communist regime accountable for its human rights violations during an upcoming trip to Beijing.
Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) issued a letter (pdf) to Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Jan. 31, asking Blinken to “make defending the oppressed a defining focus” of his planned trip to China.
Blinken is expected to visit China in early February, marking the first time a secretary of state has visited the communist-controlled country since 2018.
Lankford said that he sent the letter because he was afraid that the Biden administration’s desire for increased trade and enhanced climate policies might overshadow its commitment to hold the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) accountable for its numerous atrocities.
“My fear was that the Secretary of State would be going to China to talk about climate change, about economic activity, about free trade issues, and leave out the elephant in the room here,” Lankford said during a Jan. 31 interview with NTD, a sister media outlet of The Epoch Times. “And that is the human rights atrocities that are happening in China every single day.”
“I wanted to make sure they weren’t going to talk about economic opportunities and trade and climate issues and leave out the people of China and what they continue to face under this regime, day after day after day.”
‘No One in Humanity Should Accept This’
Lankford said that there was nothing wrong with the U.S. administration’s desire to talk with the CCP about climate and economic issues, but that it would be wrong to do so without acknowledging the CCP’s vast apparatus of repression, including its persecution of the Uyghurs, which the United States recognizes as a genocide, and its suppression of religious groups including Falun Gong.
“It’s fine to be able to talk about those issues, but we should talk about the immediate human rights issues as well,” Lankford said. “We can’t negotiate on one area and leave people behind on basic human rights and dignity.”
To that end, Lankford said that there were two reasons why it was necessary for the United States to shine a light on the many atrocities being carried out by the CCP. The first is that international attention would, ultimately, affect the CCP’s decision-making for the better.
“The Chinese government doesn’t like daylight,” Lankford said. “They don’t want people to expose what they’re doing on the world stage, because they’re embarrassed of what they would do. They want to do it all behind closed doors and say it’s not happening at all.”
“But when the world focuses in on it, we do see a difference in China … So the best thing that we can do is shine a light there and say this is inappropriate, no one in humanity should accept this.”
The second reason, Lankford said, is to stay true to the values that have defined the United States since 1776, and have allowed the nation to become among the most prosperous and free in the history of the world.
Anything else, he said, would be a disservice to that grand inheritance.
“Quite frankly, our 250-year experiment with freedom has shown we’re the most prosperous, most successful nation in the history of the world,” Lankford said. “[That’s] because we have a free press, because we have freedom of expression, because we allow freedom of assembly, freedom of dissent, freedom of faith. That’s not true in China for any of those rights.”
“As a leader on the world stage,” Lankford’s letter to Blinken said, “the United States must stand up for the rights of all people.”
In response to an inquiry from The Epoch Times, a State Department spokesperson said the department does not comment on congressional correspondence.