US Lawmaker Criticizes Beijing Bullying After Visa Denial

October 14, 2019 Updated: October 15, 2019

A U.S. congressman reprimanded the Chinese regime for using “visa blackmail,” after it denied visas to a bipartisan American congressional delegation because they had planned a trip to Taiwan.

“Chinese officials told members of my staff on multiple occasions that if I canceled the trip to Taiwan, I would be granted a visa,” Rep. Sean Maloney (D-N.Y.) wrote in an Oct. 13 op-ed titled Beijing Tries To Bully Congress on The Wall Street Journal.

“This was visa blackmail, designed to stanch the longstanding tradition of robust U.S. congressional engagement with Taiwan,” he continued.

He said that after his team refused to cancel the Taiwan stopover, the Chinese officials also demanded him to issue an official statement “endorsing Beijing’s version of the ‘One China policy,’” which considers Taiwan a part of China, despite the island being a de facto country with its own government and military. The ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been ramping up pressure to assert its sovereignty claims, stating it will use force if necessary.

“Undoubtedly Beijing is threatened by what Taiwan demonstrates—that a distinctly Chinese democracy can thrive,” Maloney said.

He added that the Chinese authorities have been trying to “strangle the island’s democracy” as “Taiwan’s political success challenges the lies and excuses of the authoritarian Chinese Communist Party.”

A number of major U.S. companies, including Marriott Hotels and major airlines such as United, Delta, and American Airlines have dropped references to Taiwan as an independent territory on their websites at Beijing’s urging.

Maloney also made a note of U.S. companies, like NBA and Apple, that came under China’s wrath for daring to “depart from the party line” in relation to the Hong Kong protests.

FILE PHOTO: A demonstrator holds flags of Taiwan and the United States in support of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen during an stop-over after her visit to Latin America in Burlingame
A demonstrator holds flags of Taiwan and the United States in support of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen during an stop-over after her visit to Latin America in Burlingame, California, U.S. on Jan. 14, 2017. (Stephen Lam/Reuters)

The CCP has also made extensive efforts to meddle in Taiwan’s 2020 presidential elections, through bribery, media disinformation campaign, and social media trolling, in order to push through candidates with a pro-Beijing agenda. Taiwan has accused the CCP of trying to sway its presidential and legislative elections after it lost another Pacific ally in the Solomon Islands to Beijing.

During a visit to Nepal on Sunday, Chinese leader Xi Jinping warned in a televised statement that any attempt to “split China in any part of the country will end in crushed bodies and shattered bones.”

Maloney met with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Oct. 7, during which Tsai thanked the U.S. Congress for “always le[ading] the charge in supporting Taiwan” with bills and resolutions, according to an Oct. 7 press release.

He had co-sponsored the Taiwan Travel Act, which unanimously passed through Congress in February 2018 intending to encourage high-level diplomatic exchanges between the United States and Taiwan.

He said that he will continue to explore ways to strengthen U.S. support for Taiwan, which he said was both “materially necessary” and “a moral imperative.”

“America must stand up for democracy and freedom in the face of the Chinese Communist Party’s aggression and authoritarianism,” Maloney wrote.

“My message to China is clear: ham-handed and obtusely enforced pressure campaigns will only invigorate congressional support for Taiwan,” he said on Oct. 14. “Visa blackmail will get them nowhere.”

Follow Eva on Twitter: @EvaSailEast
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