WASHINGTON – Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered the following statement at the opening of a committee hearing titled, “Rule By Fear: 30 Years After Tiananmen Square.”
“Thank you Mr. Chairman, and thank you to our three witnesses. The 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre provides an important opportunity to discuss human rights in China and the importance of a values-driven American foreign policy.
Indeed, the events of 30 years ago continue to resonate because of our collective commitment to building a more just and decent world.
Unfortunately, China has continued down the path it began that fateful day.
With Xi Jinping declaring himself president for life, cracking down on civil society and human rights, introducing an Orwellian system of mass surveillance, advancing militarily in the South China Sea and with predatory economic practices in Africa and the Western Hemisphere—China’s trajectory is clear.
Under the guise of so-called ‘re-education campaigns,’ the CCP has brutally forced nearly a million Uighurs in Xinjiang into heavily surveilled, forced labor camps—a model Xi may intend to expand throughout the country.
Tibetans, facing wide-scale repression and harsh controls on religious, educational, cultural and linguistic freedom, were in many respects the ‘test subjects’ for the sort of ethnic surveillance we see in Xinjiang.
CCP authorities likewise repress Christians, and Falun Gong members face forced labor and torture for their beliefs.
Lawyers, journalists, students, labor activists, and human rights defenders are all at risk. And behind its ‘Great Firewall’ China has created a ‘social credit system’ that rewards the ‘good’ and punishes the ‘bad’.
Sadly, China’s authoritarian model is appealing in all too many places around the globe, where dictators and despots are happy to accept China’s assistance in repressing their own people. From Cambodia to Venezuela to Angola we find the Communist Party of China sharing the technologies and techniques they have refined to crush democracy in their own country.
Developing an effective policy that keeps our values at the center of our China policy is uniquely challenging and increasingly urgent.
Just being more confrontational with China does not make us more competitive with China. Nor does simple confrontation help us resolve core human rights concerns.
As we reflect on those lost and the events of Tiananmen we must also look inward. We must ensure our values, grounded in international human rights, guide our efforts to strategically and coherently respond to China’s rising power and growing authoritarianism.
Unfortunately, this Administration has simply failed to use our cherished time-tested principles and tools to universally and strategically support and promote human rights. This is unacceptable. To confusion and dismay, last week, Secretary Pompeo announced the establishment of a new commission to make sure we have a ‘solid definition of human rights’. The ‘solid definition’ already exists. We don’t need to redefine human rights. We need to defend and protect them.
We must leverage all of the tools in our toolkit.
We must cultivate robust diplomatic and security partnerships. We must bolster our own presence.
We must address our own economic challenges and pursue more adroit economic statecraft abroad.
And core American values must be the centerpiece of our foreign policy.
We can start by investing in institutions that support democratic governance globally and stand with those who seek freedom.
We must remember what made America a leader of nations. It wasn’t just the strength of our military or the dynamism of our economy, it was the enduring power of our ideals.
This Committee must step up to advocate for more than a transactional approach to human rights. Because democracy will not defend itself.
In the memory of those who died for their belief in democracy in China thirty years ago, we must remind ourselves of the sheer power of an informed democratic society living in freedom.
We must lead with the values that made us great, to be a beacon for those around the world. In doing so, we offer a better model, one which the people of China demonstrated 30 years ago has universal appeal, not limited to a ‘civilization’ or a particular nation. We must equally advocate for the peaceful protestors in Sudan, attacked by their government over the weekend.
And it is these values that inspire others to partner with us, and to rally with us in facing down the greatest challenges of our time.
We owe those who stood in Tiananmen Square 30 years ago – and the Chinese people today – nothing less.”