Miami Herald
Op-Ed: Sen. Rick Scott
October 9, 2019

The greatest threat we face in the next century is from China.

China’s growing influence around the world presents a clear and present danger to the stability of world markets, the security of the United States and our allies and the quest for freedom and democracy around the globe.

I just returned from Hong Kong, where I met with pro-democracy, business and religious leaders who are fighting for their freedom and human dignity. They are standing strong against Beijing’s aggression.

I was the first U.S. senator to visit Hong Kong since the protests started 17 weeks ago.

I met with protesters — students, parents and grandparents — who are fighting to regain the freedom they were once promised. I heard their stories — horrible and frightening stories of police brutality, threats against individuals and their families and mysterious disappearances. I heard how injured protesters can’t go to the hospital for fear of retaliation. But in all the horrific tales, there are brave and heroic souls fighting for freedom.

All of this is happening because President Xi is a human-rights violator. He is yet another Communist leader trying to be the dominant world power. It’s Hong Kong now, then it will be Taiwan and soon America itself. China believes that in order for them to be stronger, America and other freedom-loving countries must be weaker. To the Communist regime in Beijing, this is a zero-sum game. China does not believe it can prosper unless America fails.

China is not our friend. It is stealing our technology and refuses to open its markets to foreign goods as required by its agreement to be part of the World Trade Organization. This kills American jobs.

China is militarizing the South China Sea, even after promising President Obama it wouldn’t, and it is intentionally pushing fentanyl into the United States, killing Americans every day.

China is supporting Nicolas Maduro’s genocide in Venezuela. It is spending billions of dollars to prop up Iran’s economy. Everywhere I travel around the world, I see China’s tentacles stretch further and wider.

In Hong Kong, I also met with its Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who is nothing more than a puppet for Beijing and President Xi. She wouldn’t even answer basic questions about the rights of her people and the path forward for Hong Kong.

This is all typical of China, and we’ve been turning a blind eye to it for decades. But we cannot let it continue down this path. China has made clear that it does not respect human rights, and its plan to deny Hong Kong and Taiwan freedom and self-determination has global implications.

Thankfully, the Trump administration is taking a stand against China by levying tariffs, and it’s about time. But this is bigger than trade. This is about our freedom. China’s plan for world domination should influence the full spectrum of policy decisions we, as the United States, and freedom-loving countries around the world make.

President Xi needs to comply with what China agreed to in 1997 and give Hong Kong its autonomy. I’ve called on the State Department to do more to warn Americans about the threat they face when traveling to China.

Recently, I filed a bill that would require the U.S. government to end Peace Corps programs in China. Why are U.S. taxpayers funding programs in China, the world’s second-largest economy that is clearly an enemy to the United States? It makes no sense.

I also filed a bill that would prohibit the federal government from purchasing drones from our adversaries, such as China. Federal agencies spend millions of dollars a year on Chinese-made drones, and local law enforcement agencies use federal grants to do the same. This needs to stop. The federal government should not be using Chinese technology that could be used to spy on us.

Businesses need to put human rights above profits. Americans need to understand that when they buy products made in China, they are supporting a Communist, a human-rights violator.

It’s important to be clear-eyed about this. We must be vigilant. We must be aggressive. America’s role of fighting for freedom and liberty worldwide depends on it. The future of our children and grandchildren depends on it.

To the brave and resilient people of Hong Kong: The United States is with you. Your fight will not be in vain, and doesn’t go unnoticed.

I won’t stop fighting until America’s economic and political future — and the freedom of nations across the globe — is secure from the threat of Chinese influence.

Former Florida Gov. Rick Scott represents the state in the U.S. Senate.