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China Announces Sanctions Against U.S. Lawmakers Including Rep. Smith


With a diplomatic fight over human rights, the United States imposed sanctions on Chinese officials linked with mistreatment of China's Uighur minority. And now China says it's imposing sanctions on four U.S. officials. One is an ambassador, two are senators and one is our next guest, Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey. Congressman, welcome back to the program.

CHRIS SMITH: Steve, great to be on again. And thanks for inviting me.

INSKEEP: What did you do to be sanctioned?

SMITH: Well, it's been almost a career of raising issues relative to human rights in China. I've been sanctioned before with visa denial. My PC - my computer was hit in 2006 after I had a hearing on Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Cisco's blatant complicity with the dictatorship, particularly with surveillance and censorship. They took everything. So this is not surprising that they are doing it again. They'll probably do more than just saying I can't get a visa and my colleagues as well.

But, you know, I've raised the issue of China's human rights abuse with regards to trafficking. I'm the author of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. They're a Tier-3 country, the worst violator, same with religious freedom. And, of course, Hong Kong Human Rights Democracy Act and the Uighur Human Rights Policy Act - I introduced those on the House side as well. And the Hong Kong bill did pass...

INSKEEP: Quite a list there. Let me ask what the sanctions are exactly. It sounds like you think you would be denied a visa if you attempted to travel to China, which would be hard to do right now anyway.

SMITH: Exactly.

INSKEEP: Do you know anything else that could happen to you?

SMITH: No, but I was briefed by the FBI. And they told me very clearly that it's a whole lot of things, including going after the Internet. They said be careful about your checking account. The - we know that they surveil in a very aggressive way. They even said that they might try bribery of me or someone else - and I've had that happen before in other human rights-abusing countries. So it's a - you know, they have a lot of things that they can do. But frankly, it just causes me - and I know my colleagues as well - to double down. This is what Xi Jinping is, a bully.

INSKEEP: Of course, you're referring...

SMITH: He's doing it with the Muslims, and he's doing it in Hong Kong and throughout China.

INSKEEP: Of course, you're referring to the president of China.

SMITH: Yes, I am.

INSKEEP: Now you mentioned doubling down, that you've...

SMITH: Sure.

INSKEEP: ...Spoken against China for many, many years. At the same time, though, China is arguably becoming much more repressive. There's tighter security for Uighurs, a lot more technological surveillance of ordinary people, new rules for Hong Kong eliminating many rights there, the independence of the courts there. Do you feel you have a strategy that would actually reverse any of that?

SMITH: Well, I think that, you know, there are many people - we saw it in Hong Kong - who are willing to risk everything for human rights and democracy. You know, last December - not last - December of 2018, I wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post - "The World Must Stand Against China's War On Religion." They're going after the Muslims, the Falun Gong, the Christians, the Tibetan Buddhists. Unless they all comport with Xi Jinping's Marxist principles, they are crushed.

And that is what is happening. And unfortunately, the world has been far too slow through several administrations - from Bush one, Clinton, Obama. And, you know, there's not enough being done. Although, there is more being done under Trump - to try to say we're not kidding. There are - you know, you've got to stop repressing your own people with such cruelty. And that is what's happening now.

INSKEEP: Is China effectively responding, though? Actually, you are kidding. There's nothing you, the United States, can do about this. It's our business.

SMITH: Well, that's what, you know, South Africa said with apartheid. And I was for sanctions then. That's what the Soviet Union said all those years and Russia says it today. All dictatorships and oppressors always say, you know, national sovereignty. Who are you to speak? Well, human rights are universal. They've agreed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the U.N. and other covenants - the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights. There are obligations there. And they don't live up to them. So we are right. And we have a duty to call out these abuses if they're with the oppressed and not the oppressor.

INSKEEP: Congressman, always a pleasure talking with you. Thank you very much.

SMITH: Steve, thank you very much for having me on.

INSKEEP: Chris Smith is a Republican representative from New Jersey. And he is one of four U.S. officials who have been sanctioned by China after they criticized China's human rights record. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.