June 10, 2021

Cardin Statement on Passage of the United States Innovation & Competition Act

 "Until the Chinese Communist Party changes its behavior, we and our allies and partners must hold it accountable.  This bill reiterates our strong, bipartisan commitment to working together to call out brutal regimes and use tools like the Global Magnitsky Act to hold individuals accountable for their violations of human rights and corrupt practices."

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, made the following remarks Thursday on passage of the United States Innovation & Competition Act.

The “United States Innovation & Competition Act” the Senate passed yesterday sends a loud, clear signal to the government of the People’s Republic of China and to the Chinese Communist Party: American foreign policy is grounded in our values, and we will work with our allies to defend our interests and to protect our friends.  Enactment of this bill will place the United States in a much stronger position to thwart Chinese aggression, uphold human rights, increase U.S. competitiveness, and enhance our national security.

I am proud to have worked on a bipartisan basis with Chairman Menendez and Ranking Member Risch, and other colleagues in both parties, to put forward legislation ensuring that defense of human rights and good governance, and upgrading our armory in the battle against corruption remains at the forefront of our national security policy.

This measure will complement the action President Biden took just last week to define the fight against corruption as a ‘core U.S. national security interest.’  In the National Security Study Memorandum the president released on June 3, he order a high-level review of how our government, our partners, and others can work together to combat illicit, corrosive corrupt activity.

The inter-agency review that he directed the National Security Advisor to lead should yield a robust strategy that brings all the tools at the disposal of the United States to bear on one of the most consequential problems we face.  I look forward to seeing the results of this high-level report and working with the Biden-Harris administration to target corruption wherever we find it.  In the meantime, the legislation the Senate has passed will provide the Executive with more tools.

While corruption is a global issue – no country is immune from the disease that is corruption – it is important that we bring this fight directly to the Chinese government.  S. 1260 calls for a report to Congress on the corruption and corrupt activities of the senior officials of the Government of the People’s Republic of China so that the United States can expose these individuals and hold them accountable.

Congress cannot – and must not – turn a blind eye to the People Republic of China’s shocking, systematic abuse of its Uyghur population, as well as of ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgz, and other Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.  This ongoing genocide demands a forceful U.S. response.

The United States Innovation & Competition Act protects the innocent victims of these atrocities by authorizing appropriations for protecting human rights to include programs that prioritize the protection and advancement of the freedoms of association, assembly, religion and expression for women, human rights activists, and ethnic and religious minorities in China.  The bill also authorizes and encourages the imposition of sanctions relating to forced labor, and with respect to systematic rape, coercive abortion, forced sterilization, and involuntary contraceptive implantation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

Beijing’s plan to circumvent Hong Kong’s independent legal system with a far-reaching, oppressive national security law is dangerous and in complete disregard of the principles of the ‘one country, two systems.’  S. 1260 ensures that we stand with Hong Kong’s citizens for their freedoms, democracy, and basic human rights by authorizing funding for the promotion of democracy in China, and specifically in Hong Kong.

Until the Chinese Communist Party changes its behavior, we and our allies and partners must hold it accountable.  This bill reiterates our strong, bipartisan commitment to working together to call out brutal regimes and use tools like the Global Magnitsky Act to hold individuals accountable for their violations of human rights and corrupt practices.

The bill permanently reauthorizes the Global Magnitsky Act, allowing the U.S. government to continue to utilize this valuable tool.  While this is a crucial step, I also hope we significantly expand the Global Magnitsky sanctions authority by adopting parameters used to implement Executive Order 13818.

The U.S. can counter Chinese threats to our national security by upholding our values, emphasizing transparency, and exposing corruption, but other nations must see that we live, as well as preach, our values.

I am gratified that S. 1260 includes my proposal to expand a ban on post-employment by senior State Department officials on lobbying the U.S. Government on behalf of any foreign governments and state-owned entities.  Doing so ensures that the United States government practices what we preach, removing the appearance that our diplomats might be doing less than their best on behalf of the American people in order to position themselves for immediate post-employment jobs advocating for foreign interests.

I was pleased to join many of my colleagues in supporting several specific initiatives to hold the Chinese Communist Party and other regimes accountable.

The “Transnational Repression Accountability & Prevention (TRAP) Act,” which I am proud to co-lead with my colleague Senator Wicker, who is also Ranking Member of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, takes aim at the pervasive and pernicious problem of authoritarian abuse of INTERPOL.  Dictators regularly submit to INTERPOL abusive red notices and diffusions based on false or trumped-up charges in an effort to coerce law enforcement agencies in democratic countries to harass and even extradite those who have spoken out against oppression and corruption.

Bill Browder, who ensured that Sergei Magnitsky’s courage and integrity became known to the world, and who worked closely with me on the Magnitsky Act, has been subject to no fewer than eight abusive INTERPOL red notices submitted by the Russian government.  While Bill Browder’s case is emblematic of the wider problem, he is by no means alone.  Countries such as Russia, China, and Turkey regularly file abusive red notices to go after those individuals who have fallen afoul of these regimes, despite this being a clear violation of INTERPOL’s Constitution.

Adding the TRAP Act to S. 1260 would do three things.  First, it sets priorities for the United States in responding to INTERPOL abuse and promoting reform within INTERPOL.  It is critical that the United States use its voice, vote, and influence within the organization to reestablish its rule of law foundation.

Second, it identifies areas for improvement in the U.S. government’s response to INTERPOL abuse — and mandates that the agencies tasked with managing U.S. engagement at INTERPOL examine and determine who the abusers are, their tactics, and how the United States can best respond.

Finally, it protects the U.S. judicial system from the influence of abusive INTERPOL notices by clearly mandating that no person may be extradited solely because of a red notice or diffusion.

Thanks to the TRAP Act, autocrats will be much less able to abuse INTERPOL’s information-sharing protocols — and dissidents can sleep better at night knowing that the long arm of dictatorship will be held at bay.

I am also pleased to have worked with Senator Rubio to include in S. 1260 the “South China Sea & East China Sea Sanctions Act”.  This measure authorizes the President to impose blocking sanctions and prohibit visas for Chinese individuals who contribute to construction or development projects, and those who threaten the peace, security, or stability of the South China Sea (SCS) or East China Sea (ECS).  China’s military has been creating artificial islands in the South China Sea and thereby asserting that its sovereignty extends into the long-recognized territorial waters of other nations.  And they are using these creations as military outposts to threaten their neighbors further.  The SCS & ECS Sanctions Act also imposes sanctions on foreign financial institutions that knowingly conduct or facilitate a significant financial transaction for sanctioned persons if China takes several actions in the SCS or ECS.

Finally, the measure gives the Executive authorization to curtail foreign assistance to countries that recognize China’s sovereignty in the SCS or the ECS, with exceptions for Taiwan, counterterrorism, democracy support, counter-narcotics, global health, and humanitarian assistance.

Collectively, all of the provisions I have just discussed reinforce the values that drive our foreign policy.  The “U.S. Innovation & Competition Act” will prove to be an important tool in countering the People’s Republic of China and other authoritarian regimes around the world.  I want to commend Senator Schumer for his persistence with respect to bringing this bipartisan bill to the floor, and for allowing its consideration under regular order.

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