- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 31, 2020

A Chinese state newspaper called the riots in dozens of U.S. cities “retribution” for Washington’s support of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, punctuating rising tensions Sunday between Beijing and President Trump.

Mr. Trump has stepped up to the fight and announced that the U.S. is terminating its relationship with the World Health Organization over its handling of China’s role in the coronavirus crisis. He also imposed fresh sanctions on Beijing and Hong Kong officials for their security crackdown on the financial hub.

The president disclosed over the weekend that he is working to add India, South Korea, Russia and Australia to the Group of Seven nations’ annual summit. Aides said the move is partly aimed at confronting China’s rising influence.

“For the first time, we have a president of the United States who is prepared to push back against [China’s threats] and protect the American people,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday on Fox Business’ “Sunday Morning Futures.”

The Global Times, a newspaper known as a Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece, suggested in a column that Beijing would be justified if it openly backed the protests and riots in the U.S. that have prompted eight governors to call out the National Guard.

The column, written by Global Times Editor-in-Chief Hu Xijin, took aim at the Trump administration for threatening to impose sanctions on China over its new security law in Hong Kong.

The newspaper also took aim at Mr. Pompeo and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat. It mocked a statement Mrs. Pelosi made nearly a year ago that pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong were “a beautiful sight to behold” at the time.

“Now, the ‘beautiful sight’ is extending from Hong Kong to over a dozen U.S. states,” the paper said. “U.S. politicians now can enjoy this sight from their own windows.”

The demonstrations and, in many cases violent rioting, began last week in Minneapolis, where George Floyd, a black man, died after a white police officer handcuffed him and knelt directly on his neck for nine minutes. The officer, Derek Chauvin, has since been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

“A quick question for Pelosi and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: Should the Chinese government and National People’s Congress issue a statement to support the protests by African-Americans and the grassroots of U.S. society?” Mr. Hu wrote. “It seems to be what Beijing should do according to the logic of Washington cheering for the rioters in Hong Kong.”

Mr. Pompeo implicitly criticized the leadership of Chinese President Xi Jinping. “It’s a different Chinese Communist Party today than it was 10 years ago,” he said.

“This is a Chinese Communist Party that has come to view itself as intent upon the destruction of Western ideals, Western democracies, Western values, and puts Americans at risk,” he said. “The list is long, whether it’s stealing American intellectual property, destroying hundreds and millions of jobs here in the United States, further efforts to put at risk sea lanes in the South China Sea, denying commercial traffic.”

White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said the president’s decision to pull the U.S. out of WHO was designed to force the international organization to end its “reliance on China.”

“We’re going to beat this COVID disease that was unleashed on us and came from China,” Mr. O’Brien said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “But in the meantime, we’re going to take that $440 million that the U.S. spends, compared to the $40 million that the Chinese spend on the WHO, and we’re going to make sure it gets to front-line health care workers.”

Mr. Trump announced Friday that the U.S. was terminating its relationship with WHO over its handling of the coronarvirus crisis and took actions to punish China for misleading the world on the virus and for its security crackdown on Hong Kong.

The president also announced he was ending U.S. preferential trade treatment for Hong Kong. He said Hong Kong is no longer a separate territory because Beijing moved to curb its autonomy.

“Chinese officials ignored their reporting obligations to the World Health Organization and pressured the World Health Organization to mislead the world,” Mr. Trump announced in the White House Rose Garden. “The Chinese government has continually violated its promises to us and so many other nations. These plain facts cannot be overlooked or swept aside.”

Deaths in the U.S. from COVID-19 rose to nearly 104,000 on Sunday. Business shutdowns to slow the spread of the coronavirus have thrown roughly 40 million Americans out of work in less than three months.

The president said the sudden hardship wrought by the virus was one reason he insisted on attending the first manned space launch in the U.S. in nine years on Saturday in Florida.

“It’s such a great inspiration for our country,” Mr. Trump said of the Space X launch. “We think next year is going to be one of the best years we’ve ever had, economically. We suffered something that was terrible. It should have never happened. It should have never come out of China, but it did. They didn’t stop it. They were unable, probably, to stop it.”

The president is imposing sanctions on Hong Kong and Chinese officials who are involved in restricting freedoms in Hong Kong. He also is moving to end Hong Kong’s preferential trading status with the U.S.

“He’s asked us to review every preferential treatment that Hong Kong had and work to eliminate it. It no longer make sense,” Mr. Pompeo said.

The administration also is suspending the entry of “certain foreign nationals from China” as potential security risks.

The president’s move will affect a small percentage of the approximately 360,000 Chinese students in the U.S., including graduate students and researchers with ties to the Chinese military.

The president said Beijing’s crackdown on Hong Kong “is a tragedy for the people of Hong Kong, the people of China and, indeed, the people of the world.”

“China claims it is protecting national security, but the truth is that Hong Kong was secure and prosperous as a free society,” Mr. Trump said. “Beijing’s decision reverses all of that. It extends the reach of China’s invasive state security apparatus into what was formerly a bastion of liberty. China has replaced its promise formula of ‘one country, two systems’ with ‘one country, one system.’”

Rep. Chris Smith, New Jersey Republican and a leading congressional critic of China’s human rights record, said past administrations answered China with “cheap rhetoric” that emboldened its communist rulers.

“President Trump, however, is beginning to change that and is doing what previous presidents have failed to do,” Mr. Smith said. “For the sake of oppressed people, the United States — even if we have to go it alone — must impose sanctions.”

The State Department outraged Chinese leaders last week by declaring that U.S. leaders officially assess that Hong Kong no longer has the legal and economic freedom that the Chinese government promised under its treaty with Britain that gave the former colony back to Beijing in 1997.

Chinese media accused Mr. Trump of hypocrisy with his sanctions over Hong Kong’s protests.

“Trump really had the nerve to make the announcement when a group of furious Washington citizens were storming toward the White House,” the Global Times column said Saturday. “Washington must have failed to anticipate that retribution could come that fast. It should be thinking about it though.”

In classic pro-China propagandist fashion, the Global Times column characterized the U.S. demonstrations as equivalent to protests against Chinese communist authoritarianism that have been rocking Hong Kong in recent years.

Hundreds of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators have taken to the streets in the territory to push back against the Chinese communist government’s gradual moves to strip the global financial hub of freedoms and governmental autonomy.

Citing the clashes in American cities, the Global Times claimed that it is “as if the radical rioters in Hong Kong somehow snuck into the U.S. and created a mess.”

The column suggested that the U.S. protests were a kind of punishment for Mr. Trump over his policy on Hong Kong and said the U.S. political system is “declining” at an “accelerating” rate. It sought to cast the authoritarian communist government in Beijing as superior.

“The odds of outbreaks of riots in the U.S. are much higher than they are in China,” it claimed. “How could politicians in Washington possibly define the disturbances in other countries as ‘beautiful sights’ publicly? It is stupid to do so simply because they want to attack China. Let’s wait and see which country will encounter more chaos.”

• Tom Howell Jr. and Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

• Guy Taylor can be reached at gtaylor@washingtontimes.com.

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