US President Joe Biden participates in a CNN town hall in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (REUTERS)
US President Joe Biden participates in a CNN town hall in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (REUTERS)

Biden warns China of repercussions over human rights abuses

At his first town hall meeting, hosted by CNN in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, US President Biden asserted that US will “stand up for human rights” and China will face “repercussions” for any abuses, referring to Beijing’s track record in Hong Kong and Xinjiang
By Yashwant Raj
UPDATED ON FEB 17, 2021 06:36 PM IST

US President Joe Biden on Tuesday warned China of “repercussions” for human rights violations in Hong Kong and against minority Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.

China has drawn criticism for its human rights violations such as its Hong Kong crackdown, the internment of Uighurs in Xinjiang, and increasingly assertive actions in Asia, including towards Taiwan, which China claims as its own.

“We must stand up for human rights”, Biden said addressing his first town hall meeting since taking office. It was hosted by CNN in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a swing state Biden won narrowly.

“What I’m doing is, making clear that, we, in fact, are going to continue to reassert our role as spokespersons for human rights at the UN and other agencies that have an impact on their attitude.”

“There will be repercussions for China and (President Xi Jinping) knows that,” Biden added, when pressed if there will be consequences for violation of human rights by China.

Biden said he brought up Hong Kong and the condition of Uighurs in his recent — and first — call with the Chinese president. They spoke for two hours.

“President Biden underscored his fundamental concerns about Beijing’s coercive and unfair economic practices, crackdown in Hong Kong, human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and increasingly assertive actions in the region, including toward Taiwan,” A White House readout of the call had said.

The president did not elaborate on what the “repercussions” entail. Secretary of state Antony Blinken was more forthcoming in separate remarks in a radio interview. He indicated curbs on import of products made with use of forced labour in China and export of products to China that could be used to oppress people.

The American president and his officials have faced unrelenting scrutiny of their remarks and pronouncements regarding China and the expectations are for the new administration to continue the hardline positions of the Trump administration, if not to make them tougher.

“I think that president Trump was right to take a tougher line on some of the egregious things that China has done and is doing that are counter to our interests and counter to our values,” Blinken acknowledged in an interview to NPR when asked about Trump’s “hard line” on China.

He added: “But I think the way that we went about doing it did not produce results.”

Secretary Blinken, who has called the repression of Uighurs a “genocide”, was asked if he would support the boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in China, as has been demanded by some activists. “There are things that we can and should be doing, for example, to make sure that any products or technologies that we make are not being used to repress people, including in Xinjiang,” he said, adding, “Similarly, we ought to be able to make sure that we’re not importing things that are made with forced labour, including in Xinjiang.”

The Trump administration had announced restrictions on the import of apparels, hair products and certain technologies from China which it said were made using forced labour in Xinjiang. The Biden administration could go further and ban cotton and tomato imports from Xinjiang.

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