By Trevor Hunnicutt
July 1 – Democrat Joe Biden on Wednesday threatened new economic sanctions on China if he is elected U.S. president, calling its new security law imposed on Hong Kong a “death blow” to the territory’s freedom.
Biden, who has a lead in national opinion polls ahead of his Nov. 3 election fight against President Donald Trump, said Beijing was “acting with impunity” when it unveiled new laws for Hong Kong that would punish crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.
“Beijing’s new national security law – enacted in secret and sweeping in scope – is already dealing a death blow to the freedoms and autonomy that set Hong Kong apart from the rest of China,” Biden said in a statement provided to Reuters.
The likely Democratic presidential nominee said he would “prohibit U.S. companies from abetting repression and supporting the Chinese Communist Party’s surveillance state” and “impose swift economic sanctions” if Beijing “tries to silence U.S. citizens, companies, and institutions for exercising their First Amendment rights.”
He also vowed to “take stronger steps to prevent imports from forced labor” in Xinjiang, the Chinese region where the United Nations estimates more than a million Muslims have been detained in camps.
China denies mistreatment of people in Xinjiang, while authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong have repeatedly said the new national security legislation is aimed at a few “troublemakers” and will not affect rights and freedoms, nor investors’ interests.
(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt in New York; Editing by Soyoung Kim and Marguerita Choy)