WASHINGTON— Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner leveled a series of accusations against China during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Wednesday. At one point, he condemned the Communist Party of China for “[hiding and obscuring] critical information” about the coronavirus despite recent reports finding similar practices in the United States.
“Now, in the midst of the unprecedented outbreak of COVID-19, the Communist Party of China continues to hide and obscure critical information that has imperiled a truly global response to the crisis,” Gardner said. “This is the China that we must deal with, not just now, but for the long run as well.”
Gardner’s comments come just days after researchers discovered that COVID-19 data disappeared from the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last week, the Trump administration ordered hospitals to bypass the agency and send its data directly to the Department of Health and Human Services instead.
Gardner has yet to comment on this development, although public health experts have raised concerns that the practice will result in less transparency about the spread of COVID-19 in the United States.
The Trump administration, led by President Donald Trump himself, continues to claim that the coronavirus originated in a Chinese laboratory. When pressed about the veracity of this claim by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), the committee’s ranking member, Deputy Secretary of State Stephen E. Biegun admitted that it is “inconclusive.”
In addition to criticizing China’s response to COVID-19, Gardner listed several human rights violations committed by the Chinese government in recent years, claiming that Chinese President Xi Jinping’s leadership has “resulted in an unprecedented and intensifying crackdown on civil society, ethnic minorities, and religious freedom in China.”
Gardner has been positioning himself as tough on China, pressing Biegun about the alleged torture of Uighur Muslims, as he faces a tough reelection bid against former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. Gardner cited the “mass concentration camps for Uighur Muslims” and said that China’s aggression toward ethnic minorities “necessitates a serious response from the United States and the international community, including sanctions against top officials.”
Earlier today, Gardner also introduced legislation with Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), and Todd Young (R-IN) that would establish a “comprehensive strategy for U.S. competition.”
“The Chinese Communist Party bullies its neighbors, oppresses its own people, and is attempting to impose its repressive values around the world, including right here in the United States,” Gardner said in a statement.
Among the charges that the Trump administration has levied against China is that it purposely devalues its currency to lower the price of exporting goods. One Nation, a conservative political action committee, has been running an advertisement that claims Gardner is “fighting to end our reliance on China.”
In 2015, however, the Colorado Republican voted against a bipartisan amendment that would have addressed the issue of currency manipulation.
Once Gardner finished his questioning, in which he repeatedly called for international cooperation, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) pointed out the irony of his comments. Cardin noted that the Trump administration pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free-trade agreement signed in 2016, in one of its first policy decisions. Soon after, President Trump began unilateral trade discussions with China.
“It’s becoming a concern to many of our trading partners that the United States is looking for an agreement where they can point to some progress on specific commodities rather than dealing with the fundamental problems of the Chinese economy,” Cardin said.