By Doina Chiacu and Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -China’s restrictions on free speech and human rights are getting worse and its control of tech data poses a threat to the West, U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday during a trip to Britain.
“China is tightening. It’s getting worse and worse in terms of democratic reform, freedom of speech or pluralism, or just the ability of people to speak out,” Pelosi, long a China critic, said in a moderated discussion at the Cambridge Union.
“They’re not trying to change the government, they’re just trying to express themselves, and that – it’s a major problem,” Pelosi said of dissenting voices in China.
Pelosi praised a new Indo-Pacific security alliance between the United States, Britain and Australia, a partnership China denounced on Thursday.
In Britain for a meeting of parliamentary leaders from the Group of Seven, Pelosi cited what she called China’s military aggression in the South China Sea, its genocide of the Uighurs Muslim minority, restrictions in Tibet and the suppression of democracy in Hong Kong and other parts of China.
Pelosi, who is third in succession for the U.S. presidency, also praised the United Kingdom for phasing out equipment from Chinese tech giant Huawei from its 5G network.
“That is a big threat,” Pelosi said when asked about Huawei.
“We do have to develop our own 5G and be advanced in so much technology so that we’re not saying, ‘Well, they’re the best and the cheapest and so we all have to be enslaved by the Chinese in terms of their control of the data.'”
She also said it was important for Beijing and Washington to work together in other areas, including on climate change, COVID-19 and fighting terrorism.
(Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Richard Cowan; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)