U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who is eyeing a White House run in 2016, blasted the Chinese government today for its handling of peaceful protests in Hong Kong.
Over the past few weeks, thousands in Hong Kong had taken to the streets to protest for the form of elections promised by China when it regained sovereignty over the semi-autonomous territory in 1997.
China responded by limiting elections, scheduled for 2017, to only candidates for Hong Kong’s highest office nominated by a committee slanted toward pro-Beijing interests.
During a Foreign Relations subcommittee hearing today, the Florida senator, a ranking member of the Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs, condemned the Chinese government as repressive and authoritarian.
“All this talk out there – that the hopes that these economic interchanges and dialogue with China was going to change the nature of the central government – is a fairy tale,” Rubio said. “It’s wishful thinking. This government, as it’s currently structured in China, this is their nature – is to control, to be authoritarian.”
Every instance of challenges to China’s supremacy, Rubio added, was met with pushbacks, with Hong Kong just the latest example.
“I think there is a lesson to be learned there, that if we are hanging our hopes on the fact that more economic interchange with them is going to somehow transform them into a more open, more liberalized and more inclusive government, it doesn’t seem that way at this point,” he said.
“It is the tactics of a government that’s becoming increasingly more centralized, more authoritarian and more willing to take strong actions against those who challenge the authority of the Communist Party in the central government,” Rubio concluded. “And I think that bodes ill for the future of the region, and, quite frankly, of the world as China takes on a greater economic and military importance.”
Video of Rubio’s remarks during today’s hearing is now on YouTube.