Wisconsin State Capitol
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thanks, everyone. Good morning. Make sure we got that right.
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Well, good morning, everyone. It’s great to be back here. It’s great to be back in the Midwest. When I was flying in today, it looked a little like Kansas, made me warm all over. Thanks. Looks like we’re going to get some Big 10 football, that’s good too. (Applause.) Yeah.
I was also reminded when Roger introduced me as the 70th secretary of state that President Trump is the 45th president, so there’s a lot more turnover in my job. And so I’ll do my best to hang on. Thanks for inviting me here, Roger. It took us a little while to put this all together with all that’s going on.
And thanks to all the distinguished members of the Wisconsin state legislature here, friends from the business community, some of whom I had a chance to spend a few minutes with. Thank you for your commitment to this great country of ours.
This venue, my goodness, it’s gorgeous – second prettiest venue after Lambeau Field, right, in Wisconsin?
A lot of people were kidding with me before I came here. Indeed, the – some of the political press in Washington was saying, what the heck’s Secretary going to Wisconsin for? I know, it’s not a country, I get it.
But what goes on here and the work that you all do is so important to the mission that I have and my team has at the State Department, that I feel like it’s my responsibility to get out and talk to you about what we’re doing, what we’re doing on behalf of the people of Wisconsin, the people of America.
As Americans across the country were dealing with the pandemic that was released from Wuhan, they’ve been worried about their lives, their livelihoods. Senator Roth got an email from Wu Ting, a person who was in the consul at China’s consulate in Chicago – it landed in his email inbox.
Ms. Wu stated that she was “responsible for China-Wisconsin relations.”
The email included a draft resolution that she asked the Senator to pass – in this chamber – praising China’s response to the coronavirus.
I want to just take this second to read a few excerpts. She wrote:
“Whereas China’s action has been critical to the global fight against the epidemic, and China has adopted unprecedented and rigorous measures for disease control and prevention…
…Whereas China has been transparent and quick in sharing key information of the virus with the World Health Organization and the international community…”
Roger rightfully, thankfully, deleted the email, thought it was a hoax. I can tell you that the description, how she described the actions that the Chinese Communist Party took in response to the virus, were in fact all false.
Of course, he got a follow-up email. She helpfully “attached a revised version of the proposed resolution.”
Roger wrote a one-word response. He said: “nuts.” That has a lot of American history, that word and that response, and the chutzpah from an American who understood what it is that’s in the best interest of our country.
Look, the Chinese Communist Party knew early on how virulent the coronavirus was that originated in Wuhan. They did what authoritarian regimes do. They oppress – suppressed information, they censored, they disappeared courageous whistleblowers and journalists who tried to sound the alarm all across the world. And they allowed people from Wuhan to travel to Italy and abroad.
Ms. Wu was asking that we collectively whitewash the culpability for a global pandemic that’s killed more than 200,000 Americans, now nearly a million people across the globe, and has sent the global economy into a tailspin.
Roger didn’t take the bait. Instead, Roger presented a resolution stating that “the Communist Party of China deliberately and intentionally misled the world on the Wuhan coronavirus.” It’s true.
But here’s my question, and here’s where I want to launch today: How many of you would have seen that and thought something different or maybe even worked with her? I’m sure she’s a nice person.
It’s an uncomfortable set of questions when we think about what the Chinese Communist Party’s doing through their embassies here in the United States. But what happened here in Wisconsin is happening all across the world. It’s happening all across the United States. It’s happening in statehouses all across America.
In February of this year, I delivered a set of remarks to the National Governors Association about Chinese Communist Party influence operations right here inside the United States of America. And then subsequently, I organized a group – National Security Advisor O’Brien, FBI Director Chris Wray, Attorney General Bill Barr have all talked about this same set of challenges that we face here in the United States.
I want to distinguish importantly two things. First, look, plenty of countries try to influence our politics and our culture, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m not worried about the Alliance Francaise or the National Italian American organization or an Irish group.
They’re fundamentally different than what the Chinese Communist Party is doing. It has a much more sinister view of this engagement. The party and its proxies aim to make Americans receptive to Beijing’s form of authoritarianism.
Now, I use this language carefully. I talk about the Chinese Communist Party because I have a second distinction I want to draw, which is between that party and the people of China, between the leaders of China and those who want to live in China as free peoples in peace and prosperity and take care of their families in the same way that we all do here in the United States.
Let me give you another data point on the Chinese Communist Party’s aims. In August, General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party Xi Jinping told a group of government economists and sociologists in Beijing, quote, “We must actively develop cooperation with all countries, regions and enterprises willing to cooperate with us, including states, localities and enterprises in[side] the United States.”
As the Secretary of State and as the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, let me to translate.
Xi knows that the federal government is pushing back again the Chinese Communist Party here in the United States and its malign influence, and it sees that here in the United States, and increasingly around the world, it can use subnational entities to circumvent America’s sovereignty. He thinks local leaders may well be the weak link.
For him, when he uses the word “cooperation” and “opening up” he means that the Chinese Communist Party wants to create arrangements that benefit the Chinese Communist Party. We know this because for decades, the Chinese Communist Party deployed friendly language while stealing from our innovators – property, jobs, wealth – from here in the United States. We know that they built their military strength and that they have co-opted elites all around the world.
Later in that same set of remarks, General Secretary Xi said that in fact he explicitly confirms that the purpose of his entreaties is outreach, is to put China “in an undefeatable and invincible position.” His words, not mine.
The Chinese Communist party views itself as the true vanguard of Marxist-Leninist thought, which proposes that communist countries like theirs must struggle, must struggle and prevail against capitalist nations like ours.
This isn’t the Cold War. This is different in kind, to be sure. I was a young soldier; I patrolled the border between East and West Germany. This is different.
It’s why we have to have a conversation in our state legislatures about this China and this China challenge. And it’s important here in Wisconsin as it is in Washington.
The good news. The good news is that we’re starting to have these conversations all around America, and not a moment too soon. President Trump has made clear the expectations he has for our government, our administration, and how we’ll respond to this challenge to protect the American people, to create prosperity and grow our economy.
But we watch. We watch the CCP campaigns targeting state-level officials, local interests. We’ve seen them at PTA meetings. They have been in full swing for years, and they’re increasing in intensity.
Much of that activity revolves around pressing state governments not to recognize, trade with, or otherwise engage with Taiwan.
But that’s not all. I’ll give another example; and I could give many. In 2017, a California state senator proposed a bill merely expressing support for the Falun Gong practitioners in America and in China. It was oratory; it was a rhetorical resolution. These people that he was speaking to have suffered as tremendously under the Chinese Communist Party’s crackdowns on religious freedom as any others.
The Chinese consulate – that is, Chinese diplomats – in San Francisco responded by writing a letter to the state legislature. It denounced Falun Gong as an “evil cult” and claimed that the bill might “deeply damage the cooperative relations between the State of California and China, and seriously hurt the feeling of Chinese people and the vast Chinese community in[side of] California.”
Unfortunately, the California State Senate bowed to the CCP pressure and shelved the proposed bill.
It’s just one example. The reality is that most every state legislature in the country has probably received a letter from the CCP much like Senator Roth’s email as part of coordinated propaganda campaign. The Chinese consulate in New York, for instance, is incredibly politically active.
Then there is the next level down – CCP influence and espionage campaigns at the municipal and city levels.
Just this week, you would have read in the papers the Department of Justice charged a New York Police Department officer and Army reservist with allegedly acting as an illegal agent of China. He is accused of reporting on the activities of Tibetans living in the United States back to the Chinese Communist Party. How telling. He even provided CCP officials with access to senior-level NYPD personnel through invitations to official events. Sound familiar to anyone? He told his handler that officials in Beijing, quote, “should be happy…because you have stretched your reach into the police,” end of quote.
And we see it all over. We see it all over in America in sister-city programs – like the ones in Door County, La Crosse, Milwaukee, and Richland Center. They fall under the authority of something called the Chinese People’s Association of Friendship with Foreign Countries. Sounds benign. But that group is part of China’s United Front Work Department – the CCP’s official overseas propaganda tool. It’s one of the CCP’s three “Magic Weapons,” in the words of Chairman Mao, along with “armed struggle” and “party-building.”
In other words, it may have “friendly” in its title, but it is not so when it comes to American interests.
But the federal government can’t police every bit of this predatory and coercive behavior. We need your help. And the beauty of our federal system is that we don’t have to. You all can take up this mantle.
Protecting American interests requires vigilance. Vigilance starts with you – and all state legislators, regardless of party.
Know that when you are approached by a Chinese diplomat, it is likely not in the spirit of cooperation or friendship.
Know that if you’re offered a trip to China when the pandemic travel restrictions are lifted, that you should ask who is paying for the trip, and if that person is linked – directly or indirectly – to the Chinese Communist Party.
Know too that these approaches may happen from Chinese nationals or Americans working with CCP-linked interests.
When you’re in your districts, make sure other local officials know of these risks as well.
And there’s a lot you can do. There’s a lot you can do in this very chamber.
You can pass laws to codify closer cooperation with federal agencies to assist them in the protection of intellectual property and investment screening and counter-infiltration operations.
You can ignore CCP threats and encourage mayors and businesspeople to engage more broadly around the world.
And as I told the nation’s governors, you can scrutinize your state pension funds. As of its last report, the Wisconsin Retirement System is invested in China Mobile and China Telecom. Both are state-owned giants and they’re an integral part of Chinese Orwellian surveillance system. Do you want your teachers, your firefighters, your policemen invested in those kinds of activities?
You can also work to ensure your state colleges aren’t improperly influenced by CCP-linked organizations like the Confucius Institutes and that pro-democracy students from China, Hong Kong, or Taiwan studying in Wisconsin are not harassed. We want them here. Make sure they’re not being threatened by pro-Beijing elements on your campuses.
Telling the truth about China isn’t remotely partisan. It’s principled. And it protects our people.
Remember Ms. Wu at the consulate?
Well, on April 2nd of this year, she forwarded a letter from her husband to the consul general in Chicago, to the district director of a great Wisconsin congressman named Mike Gallagher.
The letter is full of CCP propaganda and disinformation about the pandemic, just like the one that was sent to Senator Roth.
But what caught my eye in this missive was her declaration. She said, “We are firmly opposed to racial discrimination and xenophobia against the local Chinese community and stigmatization of China and the Chinese people over [this] virus.”
They try to shape the storyline. They want you to believe that America’s righteous anger at the CCP over its handling of the coronavirus has something to do with race. It does not. It has everything to do with citizens who are no longer with us, children who aren’t able to go back to school, and jobs that have been lost.
And importantly, the Chinese Communist Party knows this. The CCP thinks it can drown out American cries for accountability with shouts of racism. We won’t let that happen. We can’t.
The CCP wants to foment the kind of strife we’ve seen in Minneapolis and Portland and Kenosha.
That’s disgusting. We can’t let it happen.
I’m confident it won’t. I’m always an optimist about America.
There’s a reason that we remain the greatest nation in the history of civilization. Because Beijing’s best-laid plans are no match for American determination.
The Trump administration rejects the idea that Beijing is destined for hegemony. No top-down totalitarian regime can ever best the ingenuity, will, power of the American people.
We know that our system is more attractive to others. I see it wherever I go. People want to be connected to the United States of America. They want to join with us freely because they know that we too stand for freedom alongside them.
And we’re not going to allow the CCP to interfere in our domestic politics either. We’ve put restrictions on Chinese diplomats that mirror the ones American diplomats are subject to inside of China. It’s remarkable. For years our diplomats were – couldn’t move around in Beijing, couldn’t meet with local officials, while Chinese diplomats ran free all across our country. Fairness, reciprocity, equality – that’s how diplomats will be treated in the Trump administration.
We want to confirm American business is successful above all because of its moral standards. We’ve warned our businesses and universities to make sure that they aren’t unwittingly supporting the mass human rights abuses happening in Xinjiang province right now even as we’re here together today.
Right now the FBI opens a China-related intellectual property theft case about once every 10 hours. Staggering. We at the State Department just revoked visas for about 1,000 Chinese nationals suspected of raiding our intellectual property on university campuses all across America.
We want to make sure we protect our children from the CCP’s malign influence. We’ve formally designated the Confucius Institute’s U.S. headquarters as a foreign mission, and encouraged universities to shutter the doors on these programs quickly.
And right now the State Department is reviewing the activities of two United Front Work Department organizations operating inside the United States: one, the U.S.-China Friendship Association; the other the China Council for the Promotion of Peaceful Reunification.
These organizations include or have apparently attempted to exert influence on groups all across the public sphere, including in our schools, in our business associations, impacting local politicals – politicians, media outlets, and Chinese groups here inside the United States.
We want to make sure that we get it all right, that we’re fighting to protect our wallets, our hearts, our minds, and our freedoms.
Each of us – each of us as public officials must never be complacent or complicit in the CCP’s campaign to fracture American society and to silence American voices.
Every one of us – and I know you’ll join me in this – must stand up for our sovereignty and for American values themselves.
Democrat, Republican, independent, you have a friend in the Trump administration to help you push back against the CCP’s exploitation of our open society.
Let’s do this together for the American people and the future of the greatest democracy in history.
Thanks for letting me be with you today. I look forward to taking some questions for you. We have a good discussion.
May God bless Wisconsin and the United States of America.
SENATOR ROTH: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Appreciated those remarks. Now you’ve got the hot job, though. That’s a – that’s the hot seat that we have you in here.
SECRETARY POMPEO: No worries.
SENATOR ROTH: I went and reached out to our legislators who are here today and just asked them to send questions to me, and I reworked some of them just so we could try and get a flow here, but I’m just going to give you a little I guess bird’s eye view of what people are thinking here, and hopefully you can provide some perspective for us.
So the first question actually comes from two senators. One is Senator Steve Nass – he is a retired chief master sergeant in the Air National Guard – and then also Senator Dale Kooyenga, who is currently serving as a major in the Wisconsin Army National Guard. They’re off to your right. And they’re basically wondering something I think we’ve heard a lot about, that the traditional thinking in China is that if we open up their markets and make them more traditional and bring them more into the norms that we see – international norms when it comes to trade and so forth – that that’s going to bring them further towards a democratic way of governing. Yet if we look over the last, say, 20 years, we’ve seen China increasing its grip. We see the issues with the Uyghur Muslims. We see what happened in Hong Kong earlier this year, and then Senator Nass points to the militarization of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.
So the question is: Is this traditional thinking in regards to market forces enforcing these democratic systems, or do we need a fundamental realignment in the approach?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, it’s perhaps the central question. Is Master Sergeant here somewhere?
SENATOR ROTH: He is in the second row. Steve Nass, right there.
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’ve always been scared of master sergeants. (Laughter.) As a young lieutenant, I knew to – I knew who was really in charge.
So for 50 years, U.S. policy had as its central theme if we trade with them enough, then they will open up and they’ll stop, the predatory economic activity will cease, right – that’s what impacts us in the United States. So for all the human rights problems and all the challenges inside of China, what we’re most interested in is making sure that we compete with every nation on a set of fair and level trading rules and that everyone abides by the same central ideas of sovereignty and recognition of the rule of law. And the theory was if you trade with them enough, they’ll grow enough, they’ll bring hundreds of millions of people out of poverty – which they’ve done – and that kind of behavior will change.
And I gave remarks at the Nixon Library now a couple of months back where I made very clear it’s – that’s failed. It just – it didn’t work. The theory that President Nixon and Dr. Kissinger had – and Dr. Kissinger’s become a good friend – it may have been the right thing for the early 1970s and it may well have been worth trying through the ’80s and ’90s, but we know that it didn’t deliver for the American people because you can see the tens of millions of jobs lost as a result of intellectual property (inaudible) and forced technology transfers that have had to take place from businesses right here in Wisconsin. We think about the largest businesses, but small and medium businesses – I ran a small business in Kansas for years – you could see them. They wanted to see our drawings, they wanted to see our engineering in order to trade with them.
We have to fundamentally use the set of tools we have, the power that the United States has to simply demand a set of fair and reciprocal relationships in every dimension with China. I get asked another element of this question. It’s, “Well, what does President Trump want this to look like? What does the relationship look like five, 10, 15, 20 years from now?” And the answer is it looks like a relationship that is fair and balanced and where a nation – one nation doesn’t threaten another, or another set of countries’ livelihoods. And so that’s what we’ve been driving towards.
So we welcome – when China shows up and competes on a fair and equitable basis and is a supplier to a company, that’s great. But what we see in far too many cases is the flipside of that, which is an inequitable relationship, people who won’t respect property, people – where there’s no remedy, there’s no judicial remedy for these wrongs, and it is a predatory activity that is just simply unacceptable to allow to continue.
SENATOR ROTH: Thank you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: And more trade, increasing activity is unlikely to do anything but fuel their capacity to continue that kind of inequitable, oppressive behavior.
SENATOR ROTH: So the next question which kind of follows up, this comes from Speaker Robin Vos. You had the opportunity to meet him earlier. He’s the popcorn king here in Wisconsin, got his own small business here. But is China’s move over the last couple of decades – particularly the last 10 years they’re expanding, they’re trying to invest in the world. They’ve got the Belt and Road initiative, which is heavy in third-world countries, but even some first-world nations in Europe. Their Huawei technology that they’re trying to – 5G technology they’re trying to deploy throughout Europe and others. And a number of commentators I think in the United States or experts are suggesting that this is happening in the absence of – a vacuum that exists because the current administration has strained these relationships with these powers, and now they’re going somewhere else.
So the question, I guess: What risk does an increasing China investment in other nations pose to U.S. foreign and economic policy interests?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. This is – these problem sets long predate this administration, and I don’t mean this from a political perspective. They – this isn’t just about the previous Democrat administration. This was – this is now 25, 30 years on. This is not a political issue. I spoke to that.
There is bipartisan consensus in Washington of the challenges from the Chinese Communist Party. I say that because what the Trump administration has tried to do is for the first time take on this challenge in a serious way, recognizing that it will take years to push back against every dimension of the infiltration, the connectivity that has developed over 25 or 30 years. You gave three examples. Let me walk through just one that’s very important. It has to do with telecommunications infrastructure. You mentioned Huawei as a particular company, but the challenge is greater. Every one of us has information out on electronic systems. Our kids do. It’s everywhere. It’s how we do business today. It’s how we engage in entertainment today. That information cannot travel across untrusted networks without putting all of us at risk.
And so the Trump administration has said we’re not going to do that anymore. We’re not going to permit untrusted networks to be inside the American information system. We’re going to – we’re going to over time build out a system of services that we know we can rely upon that will have Western values, Western rule of law, a central understanding about transparency and openness. We’ll know where that property, that information property will be. This is a big challenge but we’ve made real progress.
When we came in, they were – Huawei was on the rise, ZTE was on the rise, all of the Chinese telecommunications infrastructure. Look, they were showing up as state-owned enterprises and subsidizing these businesses. And so if you were a small country somewhere, it was cheap and it felt free. It ain’t free. (Laughter.)
SENATOR ROTH: Right.
SECRETARY POMPEO: There’s a cost. You may not pay it at the front end. It may not show up on the invoice. But there’s a real cost. And so we have – we have taken an approach that said, well, we know one thing we can control: that’s American information. And we’re going to demand that American information travel only across – in a trusted cloud, in a trusted network, across clean lines and telephone lines. And we’re going to get there. I’m very confident.
By the way, this isn’t anti-China. Anybody who shows up, there’ll be a certification process. If the technology complies with that – that is, we can come to understand that that information has a chain of custody that we can come to trust – then that can come in. The source of it is immaterial. That is, if it’s built in China or Europe or Wisconsin, so be it. We have the national security imperative to get this right. Otherwise we will live in an information system that looks more like the one that’s inside of China today – right – a gated, firewalled, a compartmentalized for private citizens, and a massive Orwellian state from the central government.
This is not the world that the American people or the people of Europe or, frankly, people in Africa or Asia want to live in. And we have begun to turn course in the telecommunications infrastructure and in other places, which begins to chart the right path for freedom and liberty.
SENATOR ROTH: And it seems like that’s paying some positive results, just in European countries turning away from Huawei in particular, some of them at any rate.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Look, the first thing with them – everybody knows the 12-step program, right? (Laughter.) “I have a problem.” The world has this challenge and we had to go acknowledge – the first thing we had to do is – and I spent my first six, eight months traveling the world sharing data and facts about risks: political risk, economic risk, military risk, security and privacy risk for the information belonging to your citizens. And that information effort, just the going out there and making sure everybody recognized the risk, has in fact led there to be big changes in how the world thinks about engaging with the Chinese Communist Party.
SENATOR ROTH: So the next question comes from Representative Jim Steineke and it kind of goes along on the trade issue. And oftentimes when we have national figures at that level engaging in discussions, it doesn’t translate down to Wisconsinites in their small businesses, on their farms, and what impacts that might have. We see over the first few years of the – actually up until the COVID crisis, almost like a ping-pong ball, our trade and the retaliation in tariffs between us and China just going back and forth.
His question is: “How can we ensure that we’re holding China accountable for their abuses in trade and monetary practices, while at the same time making sure that we’re keeping our Wisconsin businesses here competitive and afloat?”
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. So I go back to what President Trump talked about during his first campaign back in 2015 and throughout 2016. He talked about where we were with respect to what – where a small Kansas business sat vis China. If that small Kansas business wanted to invest in China, it couldn’t own a majority control. The Chinese company equivalent could own one here in the United States. The trade relationship was grossly different; there were huge tariffs.
The Chinese Communist Party managed to convince the world that they’re still a developing nation. They get the enormous advantages that come from being a developing nation inside the WTO – these cheaper products, where a Wisconsin company or a Kansas company has no shot at competing with that. And so the President set about trying to identify the tools that we had available to turn the course, to change the nature of the relationship, the trade and economic relationship between the United States and China.
So the first effort was to reach out to the Chinese and say we want to negotiate a fair and equitable and reciprocal trade agreement, and so set about it from the beginning. It didn’t make a lot of progress. So he began to use America’s economic power through the tool of tariffs to impose real cost on Chinese businesses. He is mindful that had an impact on American business as well, to the good for some, to the detriment of others. Certainly, Kansas agriculture community was impacted by those tariffs as well.
We have to flip the nature of the relationship; it’s imperative. We have to get on equal footing. And if there are costs in the short run, I am convinced that most Americans are prepared to say, “I’ll do that.” That’s the right thing to do. It’s the right thing to do for freedom, democracy. It will ultimately be the right thing to do for their business as well. And so we’ve tried to ameliorate the harms to small and medium businesses here in the near term for what will be a enormously important strategic shift which will benefit every American business from the smallest business in Wisconsin to medium-size businesses in places like Kansas and Iowa, and to the larger businesses that are operating on a global scale, where they’ll have the real opportunity tactically to compete on a fair and level playing field. That’s the mission set. That’s the purpose of the tariffs. The President’s been very clear he’d love to live in a world with no tariffs, no trade barriers —
SENATOR ROTH: Right.
SECRETARY POMPEO: — wide open, let the finest compete. I am confident that Wisconsinites would crush it given that opportunity. But to get there, there have had to be costs imposed, and the President is determined to continue to do that to deliver the right outcomes for Wisconsin businesses and for businesses all across the country.
SENATOR ROTH: Thank you. The next question comes straight from me.
SECRETARY POMPEO: All right.
SENATOR ROTH: And it deals with your Commission on Unalienable Rights, which I have been following with some interest, and I just want to give you an opportunity to just let everyone know how you came about forming this commission and what the results of the commission were, and what you’re hoping to do with that as it relates to foreign policy.
SECRETARY POMPEO: I appreciate that. When people talk about human rights, it’s easy for us to just kind of shut down. It seems ephemeral; it seems very international and airy. The truth is that the bedrock of what our founders delivered for each of us was this set of fundamental rights that we all hold: the right to practice our faith in the way that we wanted to, the right to protect our own property and to preserve property rights across America, the right to speak our minds freely if we disagree. We take those for granted sometimes inside of the United States. And I watched our State Department operate across the globe trying to help other citizens have that for themselves as well, and it became – it was confusing. Which rights, how many rights, how hard are we going to fight?
And so I asked a group of people led by a woman named Mary Ann Glendon to go back and re-ground American foreign policy in the traditions of our founders, the things that have made this nation so unique and so special, so that the State Department would have a set of principles upon which to reflect as we moved around in the world and said what are the things that are essential. Because every human being is made in the image of God that the Lord gave us, no government should be able to or can either grant us or take away. And so they wrote a report now a couple of months back. I’d urge you to go take a look at it – take you 25 minutes or 30 minutes to flip through it – and it will remind you of what is so special about Wisconsin and about America and why it is that we have been so successful, and why we continue to be the place that people from all across the world not only want to come and travel to, to engage in, to visit, but they want to emulate.
The – our founders had the right end of this with these set of rights that are so fundamental that we have the obligation to preserve and protect them. And I wanted to make sure that my team, my State Department team was re-grounded in that history and it didn’t become lost in this plethora of rights language that is often fomented around the world, which benefits countries like Iran and Venezuela and China. They talk about human rights in China and yet we watch what’s really taking place there. I wanted to make sure we had the language, the rhetoric, and that core understanding readily available for my whole team.
SENATOR ROTH: Yeah, thank you for that. This next question comes from Senator Pat Testin and it’s still on the human rights theme. He’s the guy in the blue mask way in the back-center there. There’s rumors the U.S. Government is contemplating issuing an atrocity determination for the Uyghur Muslims in China. Can you talk a little about what that might be, what that might mean, and the effect that it might have, and then why this is a focus for you and the administration?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So the administration has made religious freedom a real priority all around the world. The President spoke about this – it would have been a year ago almost exactly, at the United Nations – this idea that a human being must have the capacity and the right to exercise their conscience. Some people will choose no faith. Christians, Muslims, Jews, everybody – but everybody has to have this freedom. What’s happening in this western part of China that you referred to is the antithesis of that, a group of people because of who they are, their beliefs, their race, are being treated in the most horrendous way – forced sterilizations, forced abortions, a surveillance system 24/7.
We – the public number we use is about a million people trapped in this terrible condition, and the United States has a responsibility to call this out. We’re considering the language we’ll use and how we’ll describe it. When the United States speaks about crimes against humanity or genocide, we’re very – we try to be very precise and very careful because it carries enormous weight. But make no mistake, what’s happening in those places the world is awakening to, and all we ask is that the Chinese Government cease that kind of activity and treat these people with the respect which they have earned by nature of their humanity. It’s really that simple.
SENATOR ROTH: I remember as a small child watching on the television screen as in – the Berlin Wall came down and freedom came to those —
SECRETARY POMPEO: You’re a very young man.
SENATOR ROTH: I am a – yeah, right. (Laughter.) Yeah. And now we’re seeing in Hong Kong – I introduced earlier the head of the student association here for Hong Kong Marco Lam – we’re seeing in Hong Kong actually almost the opposite of that, where you have this city that’s going the other direction because of China and their security law. I know the United Kingdom – they’re working to provide visas for them, or at least for some of them, potentially 3 million of them. Are there things that the United States is able to do and things that you guys are contemplating to support the democracy-loving people in Hong Kong?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. We’ve actually done quite a bit. It’s really unfortunate. In the end, this is an example – what’s taking place in Hong Kong today is another example of broken promises from the Chinese Communist Party. So they promised in 2015 that they wouldn’t arm the South China Sea, and in fact have now violated that core promise they made. In Hong Kong they made a promise for 50 years – really to the British Government, but it was a UN-certified agreement – they made a promise that for 50 years they would treat Hong Kong fundamentally differently, one – the idea was one country but there would be a separate system, two systems. And they busted that promise. I think that’s very telling when nations don’t live up to the commitments that they chose to make.
And so we’ve done what we can to support the free people of Hong Kong. It’s their fight. The United Kingdom has done good work in saying for those of you who were in Hong Kong on the understanding that you would still have another decade and a half of freedom – they have a very special relationship, a set of visa rules that are different from ours. I think they’re going to take on-board some of those people.
But we have begun, as the President said in the executive order, to say that if the Chinese Government is going to treat Hong Kong as just another communist city, then we will too. So all of the special arrangements that existed between the United States and Hong Kong, agreements that were different from what we had with mainland China, the President said end them. If they’re going to treat this as the same thing, if they’re going to treat the people of Hong Kong just like they do the people in other parts of the country, then the United States should do that as well. And we’ve – we’re – we’ve made great progress along that way, all the while supporting the democratic rights of those people in the same way that we are hopeful that the people all across China will have the very human rights and freedoms that they so richly deserve.
SENATOR ROTH: Well, Mr. Secretary, our time here is drawing to a close. But just in the brief conversation that we’ve had, I think it’s pretty obvious to everybody that there are some serious challenges out there in the world today, and we appreciate your leadership on those. Is there some closing thoughts or comments that you might have for our legislators here, policymakers, and business leaders here in Wisconsin?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I consider myself a manufacture guy. It’s where I began before I lost my mind and ran for Congress. I now have the privilege to serve as America’s Secretary of State. And you should know that I think about my family’s life back in Kansas, my – there’s a family farm at a little place called Winfield that I think one of my cousins owns now. It’s easy to think these are disconnected, but America’s place in the world, our capacity, our economic might is central to my ability to deliver good outcomes around the world. And so I want to say thank you to everyone who gets up every morning, goes to work, does their best to create value for their company; for every kid who goes to school and studies just as hard as they can. I hope you’d all study math and science and engineering. We need more of that technical capability here in the United States.
Know that President Trump and I, when we travel the world and are engaged in these important, complex issues around the world, have deeply focused on the idea that if we get it right here in America, if we – the President uses the language of “America First” – if we get it right here, we will absolutely benefit you all. We’ll benefit the people of Wisconsin, and we’ll benefit people all across the United States of America, but we’ll also be a force for good around the world. A successful, prosperous, free America is a absolute pillar for the same kind of opportunities for people all across the world. And so we’re very focused on making sure we always remember the places from where we came, and when we get that right, when we deliver good outcomes here for the United States, then my work as the Secretary of State will be much more fruitful.
So thank you for having me here today. It’s been a joy, a lot of fun, a real blessing to be here with you. Thanks for what you all do every day to make sure that Wisconsin’s doing well. Bless you all.
SENATOR ROTH: Thank you. On behalf of Speaker Vos and our entire legislature, thank you for coming to our state capital today. Appreciate it.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you all. Good luck. (Applause.)