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Cotton Puts Screws on China: Threat of 'Martial Law' in Hong Kong a 'Grave Miscalculation'

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Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton urged China not to “crack down” on protests in Hong Kong during a Tuesday conversation with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.

Speaking on the commentator’s eponymous talk show, Cotton said that “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.”

The Arkansas Republican was responding to a question Hewitt asked about a Los Angeles Times report on the growing tensions in the region.

The Times referenced President Donald Trump’s Aug. 13 Twitter revelation that “our Intelligence has informed us that the Chinese Government is moving troops to the Border with Hong Kong” and also cited National Security Advisor John Bolton’s warning to China to (in the Times’ words) “avoid a new Tiananmen Square moment.”

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Cotton praised his Capitol Hill colleagues for joining him in denouncing any potential Chinese aggression.

“I’m glad to see so many other of my peers in Congress have come around and stated this view publicly as well. And increasingly, we get indications from the administration, too,” he said.

While the Trump administration has offered no official warning to the Chinese, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has commented on the protests.

Do you support Cotton's warning to the Chinese government?

“We need China to do the right thing,” Pompeo said in a July interview with Bloomberg Television. “We hope that they’ll do that, we hope that the protests will remain peaceful.”

When asked by Hewitt if “President Trump [is] doing enough to telegraph this is a red line for America,” Cotton would not comment.

“I don’t want to comment on what the president has conveyed privately,” Cotton said.

The senator did, however, express pessimism that China would seek to bring a peaceful end to the protests.

“I’m not seeing any publicly available evidence that Beijing is trying to deescalate the tension in Hong Kong,” he said.

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Cotton’s Tuesday remarks were not his first comments on the protests.

In June, the Republican joined a bipartisan group of 12 senators in signing a statement supporting the Hong Kong protesters.

“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 read, according to The Washington Free Beacon.

“Hong Kong demonstrators know what happened in Tiananmen Square in 1989, unlike so many Chinese on the mainland. They know the risk they run by defying the Chinese Communist Party. The demonstrators’ courage in the face of threats, police batons, and tear gas is an example for the world to follow.”

“We support these demonstrators as they fight for freedom and call on Hong Kong and Chinese authorities to respect their right to peacefully protest,” the statement continued.

In his interview with Hewitt, Cotton proposed a series of steps the United States could take to send a message to the Chinese government.

“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,” Cotton said.

“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.”

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