US lawmaker, arch critic of China, to visit Taiwan: report

The retiring House Rep. Mike Gallagher will reportedly lead a delegation of China hawks to the island.
By Alex Willemyns for RFA
2024.02.14
Washington
US lawmaker, arch critic of China, to visit Taiwan: report Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., speaks during a hearing at the Capitol in Washington, July 18, 2023.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

UPDATED AT 7:20 p.m. ET on 2024-2-14

Rep. Mike Gallagher, chair of the House Select Committee on China, will lead U.S. lawmakers on a trip to Taiwan next week, a report says.

Gallagher and six other lawmakers will arrive in Taipei on Feb. 21, according to a report by the Financial Times that cites Taiwanese officials. The trip is intended as “a show of support for Lai Ching-te ahead of his May inauguration as president of Taiwan,” it says.

A spokesperson for Gallagher did not respond to a request for comment, but the lawmaker has previously said he planned to lead a delegation from his committee to Taiwan sometime this year. 

A spokesperson for the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, Taiwan's de facto embassy in Washington, declined to comment on Gallagher's reported plans but said Taiwan's government supported trips by congressional delegations.

"Taiwan always welcomes visits by U.S. lawmakers wanting to show their support," the spokesperson said.

Gallagher has led the select committee since it was created in January 2023 after his party won back control of the House of Representatives in the midterm elections. Since then, he has become one of the most prominent critics of the Chinese Communist Party in Congress.

The Wisconsin Republican’s trip is likely to draw an angry response from Beijing, which in August 2022 cut off military-to-military communications after then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosis’s visit to the island. Those ties were only restored late last year after a meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden.

ENG_CHN_MikeGallagher_02142024.2.JPG
Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., speaks during a rally to commemorate the failed 1959 Tibetan uprising against China's rule, outside of the Chinese Embassy in Washington, March 10, 2023. (Jose Luis Magana/AP)

However, there have been more recent trips by American lawmakers, with House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul, a Republican from Texas, leading a delegation there in April last year. 

During the trip, McCaul even likened Xi to Adolf Hitler, but the response from Beijing was nevertheless far more muted than after Pelosi’s trip.

Still, Gallagher’s visit could prove more provocative.

His committee has, among other things, investigated Beijing’s persecution of the Uyghur ethnic minority in China’s far-west and U.S. financial complicity in such policies, as well as China’s international propaganda efforts and its threats to the United States.

Liu Pengyu, spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, told Radio Free Asia that Beijing “firmly opposes the U.S. having any form of official interaction with Taiwan,” including trips by lawmakers.

“We urge the U.S. to have a clear understanding of the extreme complexity and sensitivity of the Taiwan question,” Liu said. 

“The US needs to exercise extreme prudence in handling Taiwan-related issues, and must not obscure and hollow out the one-China principle in any form or send any wrong signal to ‘Taiwan independence” separatist forces,” he added.

Next week’s trip may also serve as part of a last hurrah for the 39-year-old Gallagher, who looks set to return to the private sector within the next year after what will be eight years in Congress.

Long described as “a rising star” in the Republican Party, the former Marine announced this week he will retire at the end of the current congressional term, saying “Congress is no place to grow old.”

Updated to include comments from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office.

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Wangchuk
Feb 15, 2024 12:02 PM

Kudos to Rep. Gallagher for standing with democratic Taiwan & not being intimidated by Communist China. I hope he'll also investigate human rights abuses & forced assimilation policies in Tibet (which includes the entire Tibetan Plateau not just the TAR).