China has a long history of widespread human rights abuses, most notably in regard to the country’s coercive population control policies over the past several decades. Yet in recent years, the Chinese government has been committing a genocide against the Uighur Muslims, an ethnic minority, with over one million Uighurs estimated to have been carted off to concentration camps. Yet this week, President Joe Biden seemed to paint this horrific genocide as a mere cultural difference.
Speaking at a CNN townhall on a variety of issues, Biden recalled a conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Though Biden said as Americans, we must speak up for human rights, he also seemingly downplayed the extent of the genocide by describing it as a part of China’s “cultural norms.”
Chinese leaders — if you know anything about Chinese history, it has always been, the time that China has been victimized by the outer world is when they haven’t been unified at home. So… the central principle of Xi Jinping is that there must be a united, tightly controlled China. And he uses his rationale for the things he does based on that.
I point out to him, no American president can be sustained as a president if he doesn’t reflect the values of the United States, and so the idea [that] I’m not going to speak out against what he’s doing in Hong Kong, what he’s doing with the Uighurs in western mountains of China, and Taiwan, trying to end the One China [sic] Policy by making it forceful, I say… he gets it.
Culturally there are different norms that each country and their leaders are expected to follow.
Biden then vaguely added, “Well, there will be repercussions for China, and he knows that.”
Numerous reports have detailed the horrific abuses visited upon the Uighur people, and it is nightmarish. A Haaretz investigation found that prisoners heads are shaved, they are forced to live in small rooms with only a bucket for a toilet, and they are monitored constantly by cameras. They suffer torture, as well. Some have had fingernails pulled out, skin flayed, and electric shocks in the so-called “black room.” Others are subjected to medical experimentation, while women have been been forced to endure sadistic sexual violence and torture, including gang rape, and are then forced into abortions and sterilizations. Other victims had their organs harvested from them, without anesthesia, while they were still alive.
A new BBC investigation found even more disturbing information, with survivors detailing how women are routinely raped, including with electric rods, and are sterilized or forced to insert IUDs. Other prisoners are beaten or are denied food for minor infractions, including failing to memorize passages from books about Xi Jinping.
While Biden claims that China will be held responsible for these atrocities, that seems highly unlikely. Last year, China was given a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council, essentially allowing them to handpick the investigators who will scrutinize countries around the world for the United Nations. China is also under consideration to host the 2032 Olympics and Paralympics.
Though Human Rights Watch has declared China to be one of the world’s greatest threats to human rights, the international community seems loathe to do anything besides the occasional empty platitude condemning the genocide — and now Biden is downplaying the horrors as mere “cultural norms.”
With these disturbing trends, there seems to be little hope that anyone will come forward to save the Uighur people and put an end to this horrific genocide.
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