QUESTION: Each day, the world becomes more familiar with the human rights violations pouring out of communist China. The communist regime is now imposing forced sterilization and abortions on Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang province. Last week the State Department issued a warning to companies with supply chain links to those who may be complicit in forced labor and other human rights violations in China, basically saying ignorance is no excuse.
Joining me now to talk about this and more is the 70th Secretary of State, former member of Congress from the state of Kansas, Secretary Mike Pompeo. Secretary, welcome back to Washington Watch.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Tony, it’s great to be with you again. Hope you are doing well. Hope you had a great 4th, too.
QUESTION: I did, sir, and I hope you did as well. It was nice to have a long weekend with the family barbecuing and just enjoying the freedoms that so many have given all to secure for us.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Amen.
QUESTION: Well, let me just start with a very pointed question. Is there anything that you could hear about China that would shock you at this point?
SECRETARY POMPEO: When you stare at General Secretary Xi’s actions and put – and just lay them down against the most fundamental human rights, the most unalienable rights that we know each of us has because we’re made in the image of God, there’s an enormous mismatch. And whether – you referenced what’s taking place in Xinjiang – we’ll certainly talk about that, but we know the history in Tibet. We’ve now watched this national security law in Hong Kong just take freedom away, freedom that the Chinese Communist Party had promised to deliver to those people. And you want the Chinese people to be successful and you want them to live good lives and you want the United States to have a relationship, but we know what communist regimes do, we know the way authoritarian regimes treat their people all too often, and that’s what we’re seeing in China today.
QUESTION: Well, Mr. Secretary, you’ve made no secret about it. One of the top priorities for this – for the Department of State under your leadership, under the leadership of President Trump is religious freedom. And what we see coming out of China in particular as it applies to Uyghurs, both an ethnic group but a religious orientation – they are being targeted, and the reports coming out, this latest report about forced sterilization, forced birth control, including forced abortions, this is – I mean, this is I would say shocking, but not shocking but certainly troubling to see the length to which they are going to basically create cultural genocide for the Uyghurs.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Tony, we’ve seen this action now for years. It has only escalated. And we do all that we can diplomatically to call out this misbehavior. You mention the action that we took last week. It wasn’t just the State Department, it was other government agencies as well, making it clear that businesses that are connected to this activity, whether that is the forced sterilization or the forced abortions, these are the kind of things that you remember reading about from the worst times of the last century. Businesses that are connected to that will be held to account. They will be held responsible for their actions.
Precisely how we’ll do that we have left open-ended because we want to put them on notice first. We want each company to make its own decision. We watch American businesses claim that they are good stewards working not only for profit but for good outcomes and for the protection of human rights and decency. Any business leader who says that they stand for those things that we all care about and who is engaged in activities that are connected to this Chinese Communist Party activity in Xinjiang can’t hold those two thoughts in their head at the same time, and the United States isn’t going to permit it to continue.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, the irony is 20 years ago when the argument was being made that China should have permanent most-favored-nation status because economic engagement activity between the two countries would bring about a greater appreciation for human rights. But it appears that as we see some of those businesses that are benefiting from the human rights abuses – the forced labor in China – that it may be – it may have been the reverse, where many of these Fortune 500 international companies have been more influenced by China than China influenced by them.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, Tony, the theory of the case that was more economic opening will lead to more political freedoms, more fundamental rights being provided to the Chinese people, just turned out not to have been true. It just didn’t work. And I’m not criticizing those who came before; we can now plainly see that it didn’t work, and that means the United States has to take a different path.
President Trump has laid that path out pretty clearly. He is the first president – and this is not partisan. This is – Republican and Democrat presidents before him allowed China to engage in a trade relationship with the United States that caused middle America, working people all across the United States, to lose their jobs. And we can now see not only was there that economic damage done to the United States, but the people inside of China weren’t treated properly as well – twin evils.
QUESTION: So, Secretary Pompeo, you said there are other federal entities involved in the announcement last week. That includes the Department of Treasury, Commerce, and Department of Homeland Security. Essentially, as you said, you’re putting these businesses on notice. I am assuming that, as I said earlier, ignorance is no excuse; they will be held accountable if they’re benefiting from the human rights abuses that China is engaging in.
SECRETARY POMPEO: That’s right. Look, we are engaged in conversation. A number of companies already have reached out to us and said, hey, we’re not sure what we’ve – exactly where in our supply chain – sometimes it’s more complicated than one might think.
SECRETARY POMPEO: So we try to help them figure their way through. We try to make sure. But many companies have come in and said: Hey, we want to comply, we want to get this right, we don’t want to have anything to do with this. We don’t believe that we do. Can you help us make sure? We’ll do everything we can. Others have come in saying, hey, we know we may well have a problem. Please help us try and figure a way to fix it.
Those are the ways that we want to address this. Those are those voluntary compliance, companies stepping forward and saying: Hey, I don’t want to touch this. My customers aren’t going to want me to do this. It’s not the right thing to do. That’s what we’re hoping businesses will come to us and share with us their concerns, then we’ll work through it.
For those who choose not to, who chose to think no, goodness gracious, I’m just going to continue to go turn a profit on the backs of human trafficking or forced labor, those are the kind of things that when the time is right we will ensure don’t continue to happen. It gives them an unfair advantage against those companies who have refused to do it, and it’s just plain old wrong.
QUESTION: That makes a lot of sense, and so, Secretary Pompeo, I would ask you a question: With that being the goal of actually voluntary compliance, what can our listeners do? What can the American consumer do to aid in this process?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, we’ve watched consumers who all have to make decisions. We’ve seen consumers make decisions about the companies they purchase products from. They should all be aware that this kind of activity is taking place. There is no master list, to the best of my knowledge, of those companies that are there at this point, but I am sure in appropriate time there will be.
But more important than that is we know that people who work for those companies don’t want to be part of this. We hope they’ll all make plain to their supervisors, to their company, that this is – that our company can be successful without engaging in this kind of activity. That’s the kind of thing we hope to raise awareness on all across the world, not just in the United States but everywhere that freedom-loving people simply want every human being to have the basic unalienable rights to which the Lord has entitled them.
QUESTION: You’re listening to Washington Watch. I am your host, Tony Perkins. My guest, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Secretary Pompeo, last week the national security law pushed through by China governing Hong Kong went into place. We saw immediately a crackdown. Your concern about Hong Kong and where it’s headed?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So now several weeks back it became clear that Hong Kong was no longer autonomous, that the promise of “one country, two systems,” the 50-year commitment now some 23 years in the Chinese Communist Party has chosen to break that commitment to those people. There have been brave leaders demanding that they continue to have their freedoms. Those people are at real risk of now having the national security law, which has no due process guarantees, could apply extraterritorially and certainly could apply to those who aren’t of Hong Kong origin or residence. This is a broad law that could put people in jail for life, and these are the kinds of things that we have worried about. It now makes Hong Kong no longer that special place and thus just another communist-run city, unfortunately.
QUESTION: This is a – this concern, I should say, is a bipartisan issue. You have Democrats and Republicans both speaking out. We have congressional action taking place here. There are economic tools that are being employed. Is there any additional action going to be taken to aid or help those that may be targeted by the communist regime who have been the leaders of the democracy movement?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So collectively we are going to do that. You’ve seen that the United Kingdom has made an announcement they’re going to accept up to, I think it’s 3 million people who might want to leave Hong Kong. I know other countries have made that commitment as well. The United States will do its part to be sure to protect those people as best we can who are engaged in activities trying to just demand simple, basic freedoms.
Unfortunately, the Chinese Communist Party has made this decision. It’s made a decision to turn on the people of Hong Kong in ways that are inconsistent than the promises – inconsistent with the promises they made to them. And we’re going to do all that we can to shine a spotlight on that and make sure too, as the President said in his remarks, those who are responsible for the decisions with respect to Hong Kong will be held accountable by the United States.
QUESTION: Secretary Mike Pompeo, I want to thank you for joining us, and I want to thank you for continuing to keep a spotlight on the issue of religious freedom around the world. It’s moving the needle, and many, many men, women, and children are experiencing and will experience freedom as a result. So thank you so much.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, Tony. Bless you. Have a good day.