US President Joe Biden appeared to downplay China’s persecution of its Uighur Muslim minority, saying there were “culturally different norms” in every country, Middle East Eye reported.
Biden made the remarks during a CNN town hall meeting on Tuesday in which he was asked by host Anderson Cooper about his recent phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
During the call, Biden reportedly pressed his counterpart over human rights abuses in Xinjiang province, where at least one million Uighurs are said to be held in internment camps.
According to several reports, the Uighurs are undergoing political “re-education”, while the region itself is under intense and intrusive surveillance. The New York Times has described conditions in Xinjiang as a “virtual cage” and “an incubator for increasingly intrusive policing systems that could spread across the country and beyond”.
Biden answered Cooper’s question by appearing to relay Xi’s justification for the abuses.
“If you know anything about Chinese history, it has always been… victimized by the outer world when they haven’t been unified at home,” Biden said. “So the central – well, vastly overstated – 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.”
Biden continued, “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 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 policy by making it forceful… I said, and, by the, he said, he – he gets it. Culturally there are different norms that each country and their leaders are expected to follow.”