President Donald Trump sent along his congratulations on the 70th anniversary of the communist People’s Republic of China in a tweet Tuesday that was quickly contradicted by members of his own political party.
Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, issued a statement saying that “this is not a day for celebration.” And Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney accused China of continuing a “relentless campaign” of repression, censorship and disregard for global trade rules.
“As the regime seeks to further expand its economic and military might,” Romney said, “an authoritarian China is perhaps the single greatest threat to freedom around the world.”
Romney’s view is pretty well established in conservative Utah. And China’s anniversary comes roughly a month before the state will observe a new anti-Communist holiday. Earlier this year, state lawmakers voted unanimously for a bill designating Nov. 7 — in perpetuity — as Victims of Communism Memorial Day.
The nascent, statutory tradition will likely be low key in its inaugural year. The state’s executive branch and the law’s sponsor are not planning formal events.
“At this point, I don’t have any plans myself, personally," said Rep. Kay Christofferson, R-Lehi. "But if I’m invited to an event, I’ll surely try to get to that.”
Christofferson said he decided to sponsor the Victims of Communism Memorial Day designation after attending a meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative, corporate-funded advocacy organization that regularly drafts model legislation for use by like-minded state legislators.
ALEC has prepared a draft resolution for designating Nov. 7 as Victims of Communism Memorial Day — corresponding with the anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 — but Christofferson said he elected to draft a bill to establish an annually recurring memorial in state law.
“A lot of people, at this point, are forgetting what happened,” Christofferson said. “For example, World War II, some of the things that happened there — the atrocities. I think a lot of people are denying what some of the Communist regimes did, and I think it’s good to remember what actually has happened.”
Christofferson acknowledged that most Utahns are likely unaware of the holiday he created. But he added that, over time, he hopes Victims of Communism Memorial Day will take on greater prominence and encourage residents to research and remember the harms of that type of government.
“It’s to the detriment of the people themselves when they support that kind of regime,” Christofferson said.
In 2017, Trump declared Nov. 7 as a National Day for the Victims of Communism. A statement released by the White House at the time said that the Bolshevik Revolution gave rise to the Soviet Union and “it’s dark decades of oppressive communism," and that Communist regimes around the world had killed more than 100 million people over the past century.
“These movements, under the false pretense of liberation, systematically robbed innocent people of their God-given rights of free worship, freedom of association, and countless other rights we hold sacrosanct,” the statement read.
Trump faces a formal impeachment inquiry from the U.S. House, stemming from a whistleblower complaint alleging that the president had pressured the president of Ukraine during a phone call to interfere in the 2020 election and alleging that White House staff had improperly acted to hide the content of that conversation.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert was asked by The Salt Lake Tribune to comment on both the impeachment inquiry and the upcoming Victims of Communism Memorial Day, which he signed into law in March.
“We don’t have a comment on the impeachment inquiry at this time,” said Herbert spokeswoman Anna Lehnardt, “and have no specific plans to observe Victims of Communism Memorial Day.”
Romney, in his statement on China, pointed to the ongoing violence against protesters in Hong Kong and the internment of members of the Uighur ethnic minority group as examples of human rights abuses perpetuated by the communist government.
Those abuses, Romney said, underscore the urgency for the U.S. and its allies to partner on a strategy to address “the rising China threat."