Two of Utah’s U.S. House members voiced their agreement and support on Friday for the actions of an unlikely member of Congress — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat.
Republican Reps. Chris Stewart and John Curtis said they support Pelosi’s recent visit to Taiwan, a move that angered the Chinese government. Both also condemned the actions of China, which started live-fire military drills in the area surrounding Taiwan following the news of Pelosi’s impending visit.
“They are thugs and bullies,” Curtis said, referring to the Chinese government, which he called a dictatorship. “Any country that would tell the Speaker of the House of Representatives where she can go and where she can’t go literally makes me angry.”
The two Utah representatives shared the stage during Stewart’s annual security summit, which was held in Salt Lake City on Friday morning. Their comments followed a speech from Bi-khim Hsiao, the chief Taiwanese representative to the United States.
Hsiao — who was originally scheduled to appear in person but addressed the crowd via video from Washington, D.C. — told Stewart Security Summit attendees that the Chinese government manufactured a crisis ahead of Pelosi’s visit to destabilize the region.
“The Taiwanese people in government welcomed Speaker Pelosi and her delegation this week, just like we have welcomed delegations from the United States Congress for decades,” Hsiao said Friday. “These visits are not, as Beijing claims, changes of policy. Speaker Pelosi said she came with a message of unwavering, bipartisan commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant democracy.”
Stewart said the response from China was unfortunate because he believes the country needs to engage with the Taiwanese people and government.
“I thought it was actually a very important event and a very important time,” Stewart said of Pelosi’s trip. “I’m relatively certain her intention was to go there to have the visit, to have the relationship going and talk about certain things.”
Utah Sen. Mitt Romeny said Tuesday that House Speaker’s trip was “ill-advised,” according to the Washington Post.
“I think our eyes are focused on Ukraine,” Romney said, according to a tweet from Andrew Solender, a Congressional reporter at Axios. “We very much want to keep China from providing the Russians with armament or drones. This is the time we ought to be focused on that.”
Chinese officials announced Friday the country would halt all contact with the United States on major issues, like climate change policies and military matters, in response to Pelosi’s visit, according to The Associated Press.
Utah Rep. Blake Moore and Arkansas Rep. Rick Crawford also attended and spoke at the event. Enes Kanter Freedom, a former Utah Jazz player and outspoken critic of China, also shared the stage with Stewart and Curtis.
Editor’s note • This story is available to Salt Lake Tribune subscribers only. Thank you for supporting local journalism.