President Joe Biden's press conference--the first in the 64 days he's been in office--was painful to watch for many reasons. This was especially to do with the lack of straightforward answers. I'm still dumbfounded by how the president couldn't answer a direct question from NBC's Kristen Welker about "what does diplomacy mean" with regards to North Korea. His response on China was no better, particularly to do with human rights abuses, though it certainly was longer and more rambling.
When answering Bloomberg's Justin Sink's questions on China, President Biden bragged that he's "known Xi Jinping for a long time. Allegedly by the time I left office as Vice President, I had spent more time with Xi Jinping than any world leader had..." While he acknowledged Xi Jinping "doesn’t have a democratic with a small D bone in his body," he added "but he’s a smart, smart guy," with Biden pointing out that when he was elected, Xi Jinping "called to congratulate me."
Excerpts relevant to the issue of human rights abuses from Biden's several-minutes-long answer include, with added emphasis:
And earlier this month, and apparently it got the Chinese attention, that’s not why I did it, I met with our allies and how are we going to hold China accountable in the region, Australia, India, Japan, and the United States, the so-called quad, because we have to have democracies working together. Before too long, I’m going to have, I’m going to invite an alliance of democracies to come here to discuss the future. And so we’re going to make it clear that in order to deal with these things, we are going to hold China accountable to follow the rules, to follow the rules....
And the third thing, and the thing that I admire about dealing with Xi is he understands, he makes no pretense about not understanding what I’m saying anymore I knew him. I pointed out to him, “No leader can be sustained in his position or her position unless they represent the values of the country.” And I said, ” Mr. President, as I’ve told you before, Americans value the notion of freedom, America values human rights. We don’t always live up to our expectations, but there’s a value system. We are founded on that principle. And as long as you and your country continues to so blatantly violate human rights, we are going to continue in an unrelenting way to call it to the attention of the world and make it clear, make it clear what’s happening.”
And he understood that. I made it clear that no American president, at least one did, but no American president had ever backed down from speaking out of what’s happening in the Uyghurs, what’s happening in Hong Kong. What’s happening in-country. That’s who we are. The moment a president walks away from that, as the last one did, is the moment we began to lose all legitimacy around the world. It’s who we are. So I see stiff competition with China. China has an overall goal, and I don’t criticize them for the goal, but they have an overall goal to become the leading country in the world, the wealthiest country in the world and the most powerful country in the world. That’s not going to happen on my watch because United States is going to continue to grow and expand.
If Biden has as close a relationship with Xi Jinping as he bragged about, then he ought to use his role as the president and take advantage of that close relationship to put an end to human rights abuses in the Communist nation, namely to do with those facing the Uyghurs, though that's not the only example of a demographic targeted by the Chinese. I've written about the Uyghurs before, who have have been subject to concentration camps, family separations, and rape. There is also a eugenics and population control effort in place, through forced abortions, forced sterilization, and the use of IUDs.
Predictably, the CCP has dismissed such charges as "groundless." According to Reuters, the Communist regime "has also said all those who have attended the complexes in question have 'graduated' and gone home. Access is restricted and it is not possible to verify Beijing’s assertions independently."
Biden previously answered a question to do with China which was even more specific, though which involved a more horrifying response. Here's an excerpt of the transcript provided by the White House of a townhall President Biden did in Milwaukee on February 17, 2021. Biden was asked directly about "the human rights abuses in China" by Anderson Cooper:
I talked about this, too. And that’s not so much refugee, but I talked about — I said — look, you know, Chinese leaders — if you know anything about Chinese history, it has always been — the time when China has been victimized by the outer world is when they haven’t been unified at home. So the central — to vastly overstate it — 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 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 Uyghurs 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 they — their leaders — are expected to follow.
The rest of the transcript doesn't help portray the president in any kind of better light on this. He was hit hard by critics then, understandably so, as should have been expected. Biden also claimed that "Well, there will be repercussions for China, and [Xi Jinping] knows that." Does he, though?
When the Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with top Chinese officials in Alaska last week, Director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission of the Chinese Communist Party, Yang Jiechi had the audacity to hit the United States on our so-called need to "do better on human rights," referencing Black Lives Matter and how "challenges facing the United States in human rights are deep-seated."
Yang Jiechi even claimed that "China has made steady progress in human rights." Something tells me that those overall points have at least some connection, influence even perhaps, from the remarks President Biden himself relayed at the press conference that "We don’t always live up to our expectations, but there’s a value system [of human rights]."
Fortunately, there is a bipartisan push, many of these efforts led by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to actually do something, and hit China where it hurts.
On March 23, Sens. Rubio and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) sent a letter to the President and CEO of Solar Energy Industries Association, Abigail Ross Hopper "to inquire about the integrity of the U.S. solar panel supply chain as it pertains to forced labor in Xinjiang."
The letter is connected to the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which was reintroduced on January 27 and is co-sponsored by Sens. Rubio and Merkley, as well as several Democratic and Republican colleagues. The Act aims to "ensure that goods made with forced labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China do not enter the United States market, and for other purposes."
Sen. Rubio provided a statement to Townhall about such efforts. "The Trump Administration rightly determined that Beijing’s heinous acts against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities constitute crimes against humanity and genocide. It is now the time for Congress to pass meaningful legislation such as my Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act to ensure the CCP does not profit from its abuses. This bipartisan bill would address the systematic use of Uyghur forced labor and create a mechanism to ensure that Americans aren’t unknowingly complicit in the consumption of goods made by forced labor," said the senator.
Similar language of that legislation was included in the omnibus spending bill for the 2021 fiscal year, which "requires the Secretary of State to determine, within 90 days after enactment, whether the persecution of Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and members of other Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) constitutes atrocities."
One such action from the Trump administration, despite President Biden's unfounded claims mentioned above, involved signing the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020 (S.3744) into law. Sen. Rubio first introduced the legislation in 2018 with Sen. Bob Mendez (D-NJ), another example of a bipartisan effort.
A press release from Sen. Rubio's office at the time of its passing noted it was "the first piece of legislation regarding Uyghurs in the world to be signed into law."
Along with Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), Sen. Rubio also helped "Lead Bipartisan Resolution Condemning China's Human Rights Abuses Against Uyghurs"
The senator's Twitter bio begins with "Banned in & sanctioned by China."