The familiar television images of C-SPAN showed the Missouri senator with the unfamiliar logograms of the Chinese language.
Why would the Asian audience have such an interest in a lawmaker from the middle of America?
Republican Sen. Josh Hawley has been engaged in a multi-front barrage of criticism against the Chinese government, not only its crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong but its aggression in dealing with regional neighbors and its strong-arming of American businesses.
It proved a busy week.
On Wednesday, the freshman senator wrote to the U.S. United Nations ambassador seeking a formal condemnation of the government in Beijing for treaty violations.
On Tuesday, Hawley saw a bill on which he served as an original co-sponsor, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, unanimously pass the Senate.
On Monday, the Missourian suggested that China might be in violation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, a 35-year-old agreement guaranteeing freedoms for the people of Hong Kong.
Hawley said the measure passed by the Senate should get Beijing’s attention.
“Yesterday’s bill (says) to China that we’re watching what you’re doing in Hong Kong, we’re not just going to sit back while you steamroll that free city and then try to continue steamrolling us,” he told News-Press NOW in an interview. “I think it sends an important message that we’re standing up.”
The action by the Senate got an almost immediate reaction from the Chinese government, whose foreign ministry issued a statement that read, in part: “China will take strong opposing measures, and the U.S. has to bear all the consequences.”
The Missouri senator considered this an empty threat.
“The Chinese can bluster and they can threaten, which is what Beijing does all the time,” Hawley said. “At the end of the day, we’re the ones with the leverage here because China needs us desperately. We need to start asserting our prerogatives. We need to start protecting our people.”
In the letter to U.N. Ambassador Kelly Craft, Hawley wrote that “the Chinese Communist Party must honor its promises to the Hong Kong people.” This came days after violence escalated in Hong Kong in protests aimed at Beijing’s rejection of citizens’ right in that sovereign state.
Last month, Hawley went to Hong Kong to meet with demonstrators. He and his Washington office remain in contact with some of them.
“I can tell you the situation is very urgent. The city really is under siege,” Hawley said in the interview. “The pro-Beijing government has been tightening the screws there in the city, and that’s why the Senate taking action is a big deal.”