The Biggest Story of 2020 Won't Be COVID or Riots, Tom Cotton Warns

Xie Huanchi/Xinhua via AP

On Thursday, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) gave a powerful speech about the Chinese Communist Party’s brutal crackdown on Hong Kong. He suggested that this assault on Hong Kong’s liberties may be the most important event of 2020, even more monumental than the coronavirus pandemic or the George Floyd riots. He also suggested that China’s application of a “national security law” railroading the freedom of Hong Kongers exposes the Chinese Communist Party’s greatest weakness.


“What’s happening right now in Hong Kong is a tragedy, a crime, an affront to the civilized world. In an eventful year with so much happening every single day, we may look back in the near future and say this moment, in Hong Kong, was the most important event of the year. It’s not getting enough attention, though, because the Chinese Communist Party is using the pandemic as cover for its crimes against Hong Kong,” Cotton began.

The senator condemned the “national security law” as a tool to “sweep aside” Hong Kong’s traditions and freedoms. “While the Chinese Communist party hasn’t yet rolled in the tanks, as it did in Tiananmen Square, the effects of this law are no less chilling to democracy,” he warned.

“The security law imposes broad prohibitions on what it calls ‘subversive activities.’ What kind of activities? Activities like waving flags or chanting a slogan like ‘Hong Kong independence’ or ‘Hongkongers, build a nation.’ In other words, the security law criminalizes basic elements of peaceful protest and democratic change that Hong Kongers have used for years—and that set them apart from their fellow citizens on the mainland,” Cotton explained. “The new law also erodes the rights of the accused that are essential to a fair legal system.”

“The Chinese Communist Party, though, isn’t interested in ‘rights’ or ‘fairness.’ It’s interested in control, total control—and this law exerts total control over the people of Hong Kong,” the senator warned.


He noted that protesters accused of “separatism” and “collusion” could be smuggled away to mainland China to face trial in Communist courts. The Chinese Communist Party may even try Hong Kongers for “crimes” committed far outside the city’s boundaries. “So simply meeting with a United States Senator—like me, or Senator McConnell, or Senator Schumer, or Senator Van Hollen—could land a Hong Konger in prison for a lifetime. The Chinese Communist Part thus extends its iron rule beyond its own shores to our free soil.”

Is War With China Coming? Beijing Imposes ‘Direct Authoritarian Rule’ Over Hong Kong

Cotton painted a bleak picture of what awaits Hong Kongers who dare speak their minds. “Those convicted under the new law could face life imprisonment, alongside the many underground church leaders, Uighurs, Tibetans, Falun Gong members, and other persecuted individuals that the Chinese Communist Party has already ‘disappeared,'” he warned.

Already, in the first two days of the law’s application, China’s agents have rounded up as many as 300 protesters in Hong Kong, accusing them fo “unlawful assembly.”

Cotton noted that Hong Kong seems a world away, but this crackdown may go down in history just like the Soviet takeover of Eastern Europe. “The same could’ve been said after the Second World War, when Stalin and the Soviet secret police dropped an Iron Curtain over Eastern Europe. Czechoslovakia and Poland were far away, too, but the brutal repression of their people showed the world what was at stake in the titanic struggle between Freedom and Communism. We face the same sort of titanic struggle today.”


China’s aggression is not limited to Hong Kong, of course. “All across its periphery, the Chinese Communist Party is acting aggressively. It has essentially invaded India and killed 20 Indian soldiers. In the South China Sea, it has attacked—or otherwise threatened—vessels from Vietnam, Malaysia, and the Philippines. It has repeatedly and increasingly encroached on Taiwanese and Japanese airspace,” Cotton noted.

Yet the Hong Kong security law proves the most revealing of China’s most recent acts of aggression. This assault proves “that the Chinese Communist Party will not abide by its commitments, whether to its own people or to foreign nations.” The Hong Kong crackdown grossly violated China’s agreement with Britain. China has also “broken its commitments to the United States, the World Trade Organization, the World Health Organization, and others,” through intellectual property theft, coronavirus malfeasance, and more.

Yet the Hong Kong crackdown also reveals Beiing’s key weakness. As Cotton noted, “this law exposes once again the hideous nature of communism, which is so paranoid and insecure it can’t tolerate even a tiny outpost of freedom within its borders.”

“Freedom is an attractive, precious, and contagious thing. The way of life enjoyed by the citizens of Hong Kong could give the “wrong” ideas to the one billion Chinese yearning for freedom elsewhere in the country, and nothing could be more threatening to the Chinese Communist Party’s rule,” the senator noted.


Cotton called on Americans to speak out against the Chinese Communist Party’s aggression.

“Those of us with freedom to speak and act on their behalf must do so now, as one of the great citadels of Asia slips into the totalitarian darkness. While dark days may lay ahead for Hong Kong, one day the future will return the sunny highlands of freedom to that small citadel,” he concluded.

China’s aggression is extremely disturbing. America and other freedom-loving nations will need to respond forcefully. Cotton compared China’s takeover of Hong Kong to Soviet Russia’s takeover of Eastern Europe, but it may also resemble Adolf Hitler’s acquisition of Czechoslovakia in 1938. Hitler extended German rule over the Sudetenland, claiming that it was important for “living space” for the German people. While the European powers allowed it at the time, this aggression proved a foretaste of Hitler’s invasion of Poland, which sparked World War II.

It seems China is similarly pushing the envelope, invading India, invading Japanese airspace, and cracking down on Hong Kong’s liberties. Beijing seems to be asking for war, and the United States needs to soberly craft an appropriate response. While the coronavirus and the riots are serious problems, China may pose the greatest test for President Donald Trump. Americans need to pray fervently that he will pass it.

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.

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