Blinken lays Biden's cards on fleeing HK activists

Top News | Staff reporter and Agencies 21 Jan 2021

US President Joe Biden's nominee for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said America should take in activists fleeing Hong Kong - the strongest indication yet of the new administration's stance on the SAR.

Blinken said one-term president Donald Trump was right in taking a tougher approach to China even if he did not agree with all his methods.

That included endorsing an assessment that Beijing was committing genocide in Xinjiang.

Blinken told his Senate confirmation hearing that the United States should have acted sooner in response to seeing "democracy being trampled" in Hong Kong.

"This is not going to fix the problem, but I would like to see us ... take in some of those fleeing Hong Kong, fleeing the repression, for standing up for their democratic rights," he said.

Blinken said Washington should also reassess its position regarding the presence of US institutions and companies in Hong Kong.

He added: "Is it going to remain a hub and a financial center? Does Beijing then get . . . both sides of the benefit? We should take a hard look at that."

Overall, Blinken said there is "no doubt" China poses the most significant challenge to the United States and other nations, so there is a strong foundation to build a bipartisan front to stand up to Beijing.

On whether he agreed with outgoing secretary of state Mike Pompeo's assessment that China is committing genocide against minority Muslims, Blinken replied: "That would be my judgment as well."

He added: "I think we're very much in agreement. The forcing of men, women and children into concentration camps, trying to, in effect, reeducate them to be adherents to the ideology of the Communist Party - all of that speaks of an effort to commit genocide."

Beijing has denied US accusations of human rights violations.

Asked how he would respond in his first 30 days as secretary of state, Blinken replied: "I think we should be looking at making sure that we are not importing products that are made with forced labor from Xinjiang . . . We need to make sure that we're also not exporting technologies and tools that could be used to further their repression."

Blinken said the United States under Biden would uphold its commitment to ensure Taiwan has the ability to defend itself. And he would like to see the island play a greater role in the world.

He said China, under President Xi Jinping, had abandoned decades of "hiding their hand and biding their time" in terms of asserting their interests beyond China's borders.

"I think that what we've seen in recent years, particularly since the rise of Xi Jinping as leader, has been that the hiding and biding has gone away," he said.

"They are much more assertive in making clear they seek to become, in effect, the leading country in the world, the country that sets the norms, that sets the standards, and to put forward a model they hope other countries and people will ascribe to."

Blinken said the United States will "outcompete" rising China while reviving frayed alliances in a sea change from Trump's go-it-alone "America First" approach.

In a sharp shift in tone from Pompeo - who spoke of "swagger" and "American exceptionalism" and global conflict with China - Blinken said he would show humility.

"Not one of the big challenges we face can be met by one country acting alone - even one as powerful as the United States," he said.

Meanwhile, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, in response to Pompeo's Xinjiang remarks, said the former state secretary "has made so many lies in recent years, and this is just another bold-faced lie."

Hua also said the new administration will be given the benefit of the doubt, but warned that China would not accept criticism of its Xinjiang policy going forward.

"We hope the new US administration can have their own reasonable and cool-minded judgment on Xinjiang issues, among other issues," she said.

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