Republican senator Tom Cotton (Ark.) said during an appearance on The Hugh Hewitt Show Tuesday morning that it would be "a grave miscalculation of historic proportion for Beijing to crack down on Hong Kong."
Hewitt asked Cotton about an L.A. Times report that suggested the Chinese government is considering using its military to quell ongoing protests in Hong Kong.
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"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 not seeing any publicly-available evidence that Beijing is trying to deescalate the tension in Hong Kong," Cotton continued. "Now to be fair, we haven’t seen any publicly-available evidence that they are beginning to exert physical force against the protesters. 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."
Cotton described Chinese military intervention in Hong Kong as a point of no return for U.S.-Chinese relations, saying America "should reconsider in a fundamental way our relationship with Beijing should they crack down or impose martial law on Hong Kong."
"We ought to reconsider the kind of visas that we give to senior-level Chinese officials, or the number of Chinese nationals we allow into our universities. We could also just say simply that trade talks will no longer go forward and the tariffs will remain in place," he added. "These are the kind of steps, these are the kind of steps that we ought to have taken after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 when the geopolitical situation had changed so much from the initial opening to China in the 1970s."
The months-long Hong Kong protests have resulted in violent clashes between demonstrators and police officers and the temporary closure of a major international airport. When the protests initially broke out earlier this summer, a group of 12 bipartisan senators, including Cotton, expressed their support for the demonstrators in a statement.
"The people of Hong Kong are assembling in the streets to resist this threat to their freedom and send a message to the Chinese Communist Party," the statement said.
A State Department report on human rights practices in China found a long list of abuses on the part of the Chinese government.
"Official repression of the freedoms of speech, religion, movement, association, and assembly of Tibetans in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and other Tibetan areas and of Uighurs and other ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang worsened and was more severe than in other areas of the country," the report stated.