DETROIT (Reuters) – The United States must lead the world in condemning China if it imposes new national security rules on Hong Kong, likely Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said on Friday after Beijing unveiled a law that could undermine the territory’s autonomy.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also rebuked this week’s move by China’s Communist Party-controlled parliament, calling it arbitrary and disastrous. On Thursday, Republican President Donald Trump warned that Washington would react “very strongly” against any attempt by Beijing to gain more control over the former British colony.
On CNBC, Biden said, “We should be calling the rest of the world to condemn their actions, criticizing Trump for a “silence” on human rights issues the former vice president said was “devastating for people around the world.”
“All it does is encourage thugs and dictators, which, in fact, I think the president has some kind of affinity for,” Biden said.
China has quickly become a focus in the U.S. presidential race, with both Trump and Biden spending millions of dollars on ad campaigns before Nov. 3’s election targeting each other’s record in dealing with the country.
Trump’s campaign, which has seized on Americans’ growing animosity toward China over the coronavirus outbreak to underpin his re-election pitch, contends Biden will not be as tough on Beijing as the president is.
But Biden argues Trump is helping China by undermining U.S. relations with allies and reducing the United States’ role and influence in international institutions.
China’s action could spark fresh protests in Hong Kong, which enjoys many freedoms not allowed on the mainland, after often-violent demonstrations last year plunged the city into its deepest turmoil since its return to Beijing’s rule in 1997.
Pro-democracy demonstrators have for years opposed the idea of national security laws, arguing they could erode the city’s high degree of autonomy, guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” formula in place for two decades.
Reporting by Michael Martina; editing by Jonathan Oatis