- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 1, 2019

President Trump congratulated China on the 70th birthday of communist rule there Tuesday, cultivating his relationship with strongman leader Xi Jinping even as members of his party chastised the Asian superpower for its crackdown in Hong Kong.

Beijing is marking the occasion with triumphant speeches, fireworks and a massive military display. It showed off an intercontinental ballistic missile that can reach anywhere in the U.S.

“Congratulations to President Xi and the Chinese people on the 70th Anniversary of the People’s Republic of China!” Mr. Trump said on Twitter.

Mr. Trump frequently boasts about his tough stance on China, pointing to escalating tariffs amid a trade war and his demands for systemic changes in how the country does business.

Yet he’s also cultivating a personal relationship with Mr. Xi. The president often goes out of his way to compliment Mr. Xi as a strong leader who drives a hard bargain, even as he slams China’s economic practices in the same breath.

Mr. Trump’s offer of congratulations contrasted with his main 2020 message — he frequently slams his Democratic rivals as “socialists” — and statements from members of his own party, who noted that Hong Kong police used a live round on a pro-democracy protester for the first time.

“Today Chinese tyrants celebrated 70 years of communist oppression with their typically brutal symbolism: by sending a police officer to shoot a pro-democracy protester at point-blank range,” Sen. Ben Sasse, Nebraska Republican, said. “The freedom-seekers in Hong Kong mourn this anniversary, and the American people stand with them against those who deny their God-given dignity.”

House GOP Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney said the anniversary is “not a day for celebration,” pointing to the crackdown at Tiananmen Square 30 years ago and the Uighur Muslims who’ve been placed in concentration camps in western China.

Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican, also slammed China’s celebrations.

“To see the price of the PRC’s anniversary celebration, look no further than what’s happening in Hong Kong: a ceaseless war against those who wish to live in freedom,” he said. “From the Great Leap Forward to the Cultural Revolution to the camps in Xinjiang today, it has been a ghoulish 70 years of Chinese Communist Party control.”

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