Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said Sunday that he hopes the signing of a U.S.-China trade deal will not prevent the United States from criticizing China on its human rights abuses.
“I will never accept the notion,” he said on “Face the Nation” on CBS, “that somehow, in order to be able to sell them more things, we have to look the other way on some of the grotesque human rights violations that we're seeing systemized on their part.“
President Donald Trump is expected to sign a "Phase One" trade deal with China on Jan. 15. Rubio said the absence of human right considerations in that trade deal does not mean human rights will always be excluded from whatever deals that inevitably follow this one.
Rubio told host Margaret Brennan: “The trade issues with China are not going to be the subject of one deal. This is a major reordering of our relationship to try to bring some balance and symmetry to it.“
The Florida senator has been critical of China’s human rights record, particularly its mass incarceration of Uighur Muslims, a minority group. Rubio said he hoped Congress would soon pass legislation supporting the Uighurs.
“I hope we can get a deal done with the House,“ he said, adding: “They passed a version of a Uighur human rights bill. We have our version. They’re pretty close, so we can get something done and signed.”
Rubio introduced legislation calling attention to the mistreatment of Uighurs and other ethnic minorities with Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) in November 2018.
“The United States must hold accountable officials in the Chinese government and Communist Party responsible for gross violations of human rights and possible crimes against humanity,“ Rubio said at the time. Menendez added: “China’s treatment of its Uighur minority is beyond abhorrent.”
The South China Morning Post reported Sunday that a delegation led by Vice-Premier Liu He will travel to Washington on Jan. 13 to sign the agreement. The report indicated that the Chinese government was caught off-guard by Trump’s announcement of the signing date.