U.S. Rep. Chris Smith continues longstanding criticism of China as Beijing threatens retaliation

The Trentonian

by Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman

Chris Smith

Democrats and Republicans have increasingly become more critical of China as the COVID-19 pandemic endures.

But GOP Congressman Chris Smith, a longtime New Jersey politician, has been sounding the alarm on Chinese Communist Party politics for years.

The state-affiliated Global Times newspaper, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and many others describe as the official “Chinese government’s mouthpiece,” has blasted Smith in a recent English language article published May 14.

“Smith has also been a frequent instigator on China-related topics, particularly on so-called human rights issues,” the Global Times reported. “In March 2019, Smith introduced legislation to tackle China’s political influence in the US by saying ‘Beijing’s influence operations are sophisticated and threatening.’”

The newspaper also quoted Diao Daming, an associate professor of international relations at Renmin University of China in Beijing, who said, “American Congresspeople who hold an anti-China stance like Smith have been long-term hawks on China-relevant topics such as Taiwan and Xinjiang.”

Smith, a Hamilton Township homeowner seeking re-election to a 21st term, is one of the 413 members of the U.S. House of Representatives who voted to approve the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020 earlier this week.

“Madame Speaker, Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping’s ongoing genocide against the approximately 10 million Uyghurs living in Xinjiang in northwestern China demands action,” Smith said Wednesday in a Capitol Hill floor speech. “Today, more than a million Uyghurs are in concentration camps. Millions more are harassed, beaten, raped and tortured.”

The Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020 alleges that the government of the People’s Republic of China has a long history of repressing Turkic Muslims and other Muslim minority groups, particularly Uyghurs, in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The legislation, if enacted into law, would require the White House to impose sanctions on any Chinese official who has subjected ethnic minorities to “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment” in Xinjiang.

Smith in April introduced a bill, H.R. 6524, that blames China for the coronavirus pandemic, alleging China deceived the World Health Organization in the early days of the public health crisis.

“During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, China misrepresented the seriousness and nature of the novel coronavirus to the WHO, with a view towards minimizing the potential damage to their economy and international reputation,” reads the Smith-sponsored bill. “Those misrepresentations diminished the WHO’s effectiveness and the WHO transmitted inaccurate and misleading information regarding the communicability of the novel coronavirus to participating States.”

Smith’s bill, if enacted into law, would give civil litigants the power to pursue wrongful death lawsuits against China in American courts. COVID-19 is a deadly respiratory illness first discovered in the Chinese city of Wuhan last December. The virus quickly spread to the United States, killing more than 100,000 people in this nation as of Friday, data show.

The Global Times article suggested China will impose sanctions on Smith and other lawmakers who champion what it called “anti-China agendas.”

“Sanctions will not silence me or anyone who demands genuine accountability for this horrific pandemic,” Smith said in a press statement. “In my state of New Jersey alone, more than 10,000 people have died from COVID-19. Beijing cannot continue to hide, lie and now threaten to stop us from demanding the truth.”

Smith has been serving in the U.S. House since 1981 and has authored a variety of human rights legislation during his political career.

At least six Democrats — Stephanie Schmid, David Applefield, Jim Keady, Tiffany Lynn Kaszuba, Christine Marie Conforti and Hassan Shehadeh — have declared themselves as congressional candidates in Smith’s district, which stretches from Hamilton Township in Mercer County to Belmar Borough along the Jersey Shore.

The victor in the July 7 Democratic primary will face Smith in November’s general election.