By KEVIN FREKING
March 10, 2023
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican chairman of a special House committee targeting China called Beijing’s government “bloodthirsty” and “power hungry” on Friday at a rally outside the Chinese embassy in Washington.
Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis. attended a rally to commemorate the failed 1959 Tibetan uprising against China’s rule. The gathering took place on what is known as Tibetan National Uprising Day and comes as tensions between the U.S. and China continue to escalate.
Speaking to members of the Tibetan community, Gallagher said he wanted to recognize their courage in fighting for their freedom and culture. He described Tibetans as victims of a “cultural genocide” by the Chinese Communist Party.
“They’ve not changed one bit,” Gallagher said. “The CCP is still a threat, still duplicitous, still power hungry, still bloodthirsty.”
Tibet is governed as an autonomous region in western China, with authorities maintaining tight control over Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, and harassing and punishing Tibetans suspected of being followers of Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, who after the failed uprising would flee across the Himalayas to India.
China has claimed Tibet as part of its territory for centuries and argues it has improved living conditions and reduced poverty in the region. It says the U.S. and its allies falsely accuse Beijing of violating Tibetans’ human rights.
Tibetans say they were essentially independent before the People’s Liberation Army fought its way into Tibet in 1950. China has built a sprawling network of police stations and extrajudicial detention centers for rebellious monks and nuns — measures that Beijing mimicked in Xinjiang province against Uyghurs.
Gallagher said that prioritizing human rights early on in the new committee’s work is a way of communicating to Americans that the Chinese Communist Party is not just a distant threat.
“Increasingly, we see the CCP trying to undermine our own sovereignty, whether its through a Chinese spy balloon or a CCP-controlled algorithm that an American teenager uses, or fentanyl precursors from China ultimately killing 70,000 Americans a year,” Gallagher said.
One of the questions arising from lawmakers’ increasingly harsh criticism of China is whether it will make relations between the two countries worse. Earlier this week, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang warned in unusually stark terms about the consequences of U.S.-China friction.
“If the United States does not hit the brake, but continues to speed down the wrong path, no amount of guardrails can prevent derailing and there surely will be conflict and confrontation,” Qin said in his first news conference since taking up his post last year.
Gallagher stressed that no one wants a war with China over Taiwan or any other issue, but sad there has been a shift in thinking in Washington that the policy of economic engagement with the country has failed.
“I think recognizing CCP aggression for what it is and taking sensible steps to combat that aggression is the best path to deterring that aggression over the long term,” Gallagher told The Associated Press after the rally. “I think the best path towards preventing an escalation is a strategy of strength, of communicating we will not be bullied.”
Taking steps to curb China is one of the few ideas that generates bipartisan support in Congress. The Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party held its first hearing last month. China responded by demanding its members “discard their ideological bias and zero-sum Cold War mentality.”
Gallagher met with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries earlier this week to discuss the committee’s future work.
“Congress is going to disagree about a lot over the next year, but they want this to be an area where we try and identify that bipartisan center of gravity,” Gallagher said.