China-related Remarks of Secretary Michael R. Pompeo at a Press Availability

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SECRETARY POMPEO:  A belated happy birthday to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who celebrated his 85th birthday on Monday of this week.

I want to start today with the Chinese Communist Party.

As with all unelected, communist regimes, Beijing fears its own people’s free thinking more than any foreign foe.

We were deeply troubled to learn this week that the CCP detained Xu Zhangrun for criticizing General Secretary Xi Jinping’s repressive regime and the CCP’s mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic.  He should be released.  He was simply telling the truth.  He should be released as soon as possible.

I’ll repeat a theme I’ve been talking about for months:  The CCP has an enormous credibility problem.  They failed to tell the world the truth about this virus, and now hundreds of thousands of peoples all across the world are dead.  We need the truth; we still need the truth.  We need to open up.  We need to engage in a serious way with scientists around the world.  And they now say they’re going to allow the WHO to come in.  That’s great, but the WHO needs to be free to do its real work.  We need to make sure the right people are there to engage in this investigation, and we need real answers, not a perfunctory political solution.  This is about science, not politics, and the Chinese Communist Party needs to come clean with the world about this virus.

Beijing claimed for months that it reported the outbreak of the virus to the WHO.  Now we know that’s not true, too.  We know that the WHO’s Country Office in China reported the outbreak only after it picked up a media statement from the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission.

Again, Beijing describes Xinjiang’s internment camps as vocational training camps.  New reports of forced abortions and sterilizations add to a body of evidence that contradicts that.

And Beijing said that for 50 years they’d give the people of Hong Kong “a high degree of autonomy.”  And you all have seen what’s happened after only 23 years – empty promises made to the people of Hong Kong and to the world.

I want to give kudos to Google, Facebook, and Twitter for refusing to surrender user data to the Hong Kong government – other companies should follow them and do the same.

And a shoutout to our Canadian friends as well.  Canada has been strong in its response to Beijing’s crackdown.  We think that’s the right course for the entire world to take.

We’re heartened to see too the United Kingdom have their vigorous debate now on the risk presented to the British people from Huawei technology being in their systems.  As FBI Director Wray said yesterday, Huawei is, quote, “a serial intellectual property thief, with a pattern and practice of disregarding both the rule of law and the rights of its victims.”

I commend to you Director Wray’s entire speech yesterday.  It is worth the time to watch.  Attorney General Barr will deliver a set of remarks in the coming days, and then I’ll give what will be the fourth in a series of remarks.

I want to direct everyone also to a letter that Under Secretary Keith Krach drafted to CEOs, boards of directors, trade groups, commercial investment firms alerting them to the CCP’s use of slave labor in Xinjiang, and providing them with a set of governance recommendations for how they should ensure that they are not part and parcel of this terrible practice.

Last China item:  The CCP recently filed a boundary dispute with Bhutan at a meeting of the Global Environment Facility.

From the mountain ranges of the Himalayas to the waters of Vietnam’s Exclusive Zone, to the Senkaku Islands, and beyond, Beijing has a pattern of instigating territorial disputes.  The world shouldn’t allow this bullying to take place, nor should it permit it to continue.

QUESTION:  And then secondly, you said yesterday the administration’s looking at banning TikTok.  I’m curious how serious this ban consideration is.  India banned it almost overnight with very little thought.  And how soon can we expect that to go into effect?

With respect to TikTok, I want to put it in the broader context.  We have been engaged in a constant evaluation about ensuring that we protect the privacy of American citizens and their information as it transits, so this doesn’t relate to any one particular business or company but rather to American national security, and we are striving to get that right.  The comments that I made about a particular company earlier this week fall in the context of us evaluating the threat from the Chinese Communist Party.  We’ve talked about it in the context of ZTE, we’ve talked about it in the context of Huawei, and we are now evaluating each instance where we believe that U.S. citizens’ data that they have on their phones or in their system or in their health care records – we want to make sure that the Chinese Communist Party doesn’t have a way to easily access that.

And so what you’ll see the administration do is take actions that preserve and protect that information and deny the Chinese Communist Party access to the private information that belongs to Americans.  We have a – it’s a big project because we’ve got partners all around the world where infrastructure crosses Chinese technology and then comes to the United States, so one should think about this as a project of real scale and real importance.  We must get this right.  The infrastructure of this next hundred years must be a communications infrastructure that’s based on a Western ideal of private property and protection of private citizens’ information in a transparent way.  That is not the model that Chinese Communist Party software and hardware companies are engaged in.

QUESTION:  So disparate countries from Taiwan to Germany have managed to flatten the curve, but the U.S. has the highest number of cases of COVID in the world.  Do you still believe the U.S. is a world leader on the pandemic?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Take your first question – of course the U.S. remains the world leader in the pandemic.  It almost goes without saying, and there are multiple dimensions and I’ve talked about each of them.  Certainly the Vice President’s task force talks about them as well.  But whether that is the technical, scientific solutions both to how to stop the spread; whether that’s therapeutics or vaccines, the world turns its eyes to the best scientists and researchers and practitioners of the sciences that will ultimately bring resolution to this problem.

It’s the United States that the world looks to.  When it comes to countries, small countries, whether that’s in Central Asia or in Africa, their eyes turn to the United States.  It’s not remotely close who has provided the most assistance to these nations to try and solve what are vexing problems in their countries with very little medical infrastructure.  And so yes, there is no doubt that the United States has been and will remain the world’s leader when it comes to not only pandemic response but global health care infrastructure, systems, and processes that take down the very risks that we described.

It’s good we have friends and partners in this too.  The Western democracies – that model is the one that is most likely to prevail and prevent this kind of thing from happening again.  What we found in China is the Chinese Communist Party was simply incapable – and you see it with the arrest that I referred to in my remarks – they’re incapable of being transparent, of accepting criticism, of allowing reporters to ask them questions that they find uncomfortable that elicit the truth and the facts.  We still have significant questions about who patient zero was.  We’re now six months on at least from when this began and the Chinese Communist Party – that authoritarian model – simply can’t prevent the kind of inquiry or has to prevent that kind of inquiry because they’re afraid.  They’re afraid that the truth will be something that will not shine a happy light on what took place, and so instead they chose to hide and obfuscate and deny basic truth, basic scientific truths about what took place.  This is the – this is a fundamental and fatal flaw for authoritarian regimes and it’s why the Chinese Communist Party has to be held accountable.

QUESTION:  Thank you, Secretary.  Following up on your remarks about Beijing’s pattern of instigating boundary dispute, you know what has happened with – to India, China’s aggression, behavior against India in Leh, in Ladakh.  What is the – what is the assessment of the situation between India and China right now?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So I’ve spoken with Foreign Minister Jaishankar a number of times about this.  The Chinese took incredibly aggressive action.  The Indians have done their best to respond to that.  I’d put this in the context of General Secretary Xi Jinping and his behavior throughout the region, and indeed, throughout the world.  It’s – I don’t think it’s possible to look at that particular instance of Chinese Communist Party aggression in isolation.  I think you need to put it in the larger context.

When I was up here once before, we talked about the number of both maritime and boundary disputes that the Chinese Communist Party has engaged in.  I think it’s unequaled anyplace else in the world.  There aren’t many neighbors that could satisfactorily say that they know where their sovereignty ends and that the Chinese Communist Party will respect that sovereignty.  That’s certainly true now for the people of Bhutan as well.

This is what the world must come together to respond to.  This increasing revisionist effort that the Chinese Communist Party is engaged in is something that President Trump has taken incredibly seriously.  The United States hadn’t done that in previous administrations.  We will respond to this in a way that we think is appropriate, and we have attempted to communicate to the Chinese leadership that we are serious about this.  When I say “we,” it’s not just the United States.  We will start very shortly a dialogue with our EU friends on how we collectively can respond to this challenge from the Chinese Communist Party.

And I am confident, I’m confident that this – I think what’s happened with the spread of this virus from Wuhan, China – I think the world has seen the true colors of the Chinese Communist Party, and I am convinced more than ever that the free peoples of the world will come to understand the threat that’s presented not only internally inside of China, but importantly, that the impact that General Secretary Xi has on the world is not good for free peoples and democracy-loving peoples, and the world will come together to respond to that in a way that is powerful and important and will preserve sovereign nations operating under the rule of law in the way that we have all come accustomed to and benefits people all across the world.

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