Protesters disrupted the first hearing of a House select committee investigating potential threats that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) poses to the country and U.S.-China competition late Tuesday, arguing that the country should cooperate with China instead of competing with it.
“China is not our enemy,” read a sign held by Olivia DiNucci, an organizer for CODEPINK: Women for Peace, which advocates against the United States engaging in wars and “regime change efforts.”
A CODEPINK release states that DiNucci delivered a message that “The American people need cooperation, not competition with China” before she was taken out of the chamber where the meeting was happening.
After DiNucci was escorted out, a man that CODEPINK identified as a Washington, D.C. resident named “Hector M.” stood up with a sign saying “Stop Asian hate” and yelled “This committee is about saber-rattling; it is not about peace.”
Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), who serves as the chair of the committee, said later during the hearing that the committee has asked the Capitol Police about what happened to the protesters. He said they will defer to the police in these types of situations, but he is “certainly not pressing charges.”
Capitol Police told The Hill in a statement that the two protesters were arrested for demonstrating inside the Capitol, which is prohibited under D.C. law.
The CODEPINK release argues the committee hearing will promote hatred toward Asian Americans.
“The formation of this committee and these hearings do nothing but drive hate on Asian Americans,” the release states. “This obscene amount of warmongering devastates the people and the pristine environment of the Asia-Pacific.”
It states that the U.S. has more than 250 bases in the Indo-Pacific region to “encircle” China that are destroying the natural habitat of islands. It added that the people, communities, water and lands of Hawaii and the U.S. territory of Guam are already “victims of war.”
“Our common enemy is the climate crisis–we need cooperation, not competition, to address climate change and the challenges we face together as humanity,” the release said.
The House overwhelmingly approved a resolution in January to create the committee to focus on the U.S.-China relationship, with support from both parties.
H.R. McMaster, who served as national security adviser during the Trump administration and who was testifying before the committee during the protest, said after the protesters were escorted out that the protest is “indicative” of the effect that China’s United Front Work Department has had.
The department uses propaganda and manipulation to coordinate the CCP’s domestic and foreign influence operations, according to the State Department.
McMaster said the department has reinforced the idea that “America is the problem in the world” and that the U.S. disengaging from world affairs or becoming more passive would allow the international situation to improve.
“But the reality is that this committee’s work is really important because we have to catch up, mainly because of the complacency that you hear, reflected maybe in an extreme way in these two outbursts,” he said.
–Updated on March 1 at 2:16 p.m.