by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Human rights advocates and political dissidents with ties to Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, and Tibet are condemning California Democratic governor Gavin Newsom’s travels to Hong Kong and China where he plans to avoid discussion of human rights abuses and focus on “climate” collaboration.
“It’s very tough for us to understand why Governor Newsom decided to visit China,” said Charles Lam, spokesman for Hong Kong Forum Los Angeles, who added that “China is going to use Newsom as basically an advertisement to pretend that business is as usual even in light of all these crackdowns.”
Lam’s nonprofit is one of more than 50 dissident and human rights-focused diasporic groups to oppose the governor’s taxpayer-funded trip, as Hong Kong keeps hundreds of pro-democracy activists imprisoned, while China separates Tibetan children from their families and forces Uyghurs into labor camps.
“While he enjoys the freedom and safety of visiting Hong Kong and mainland China, his constituents who are in exile cannot return home without being immediately detained,” the coalition wrote in a letter first reported by Politico. “Among over 100,000 residents in California born in Hong Kong, many have family members and friends threatened by the ongoing political crackdown.”
The human rights outcry is casting a pall over Newsom’s well-publicized venture to broker deals with the Chinese Communist Party on renewable energy, trade, and tourism, even as he pledges to “combat xenophobia.” On his way to Asia the governor stopped off in Israel, in a visit that some critics called a taxpayer-funded campaign stunt and also angered anti-Israel activists.
The governor’s state-funded travel to China, which is well known for its human rights atrocities, comes after California for years banned state trips to red states over their transgender policies—a ban that under Newsom’s administration extended to more than half the country before its repeal last month.