United States President Joe Biden has said that China will pay a price for its human rights abuses, responding to queries at a televised event on the Asian nation’s handling of Muslim minorities in its far western region of Xinjiang.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has drawn global criticism for holding the minority Uighurs in internment camps and other human rights abuses.
“Well, there will be repercussions for China and he knows that,” Biden said of Xi when pressed on the issue at the town hall event televised on national broadcaster CNN on Tuesday.
The US will reassert its global role in speaking up for human rights, Biden said, adding that he would work with the international community to get China to protect them.
“China is trying very hard to become a world leader and to get that moniker and be able to do that they have to gain the confidence of other countries,” Biden said on his first official trip since taking office as president in January.
“As long as they are engaged in activity that is contrary to basic human rights, it is going to be hard for them to do that,” he added.
In a two-hour phone call with Xi this month, Biden emphasised the US priority of preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific region, where the US and China are major strategic rivals.
He also voiced concern about Beijing’s “coercive and unfair” trade practices and rights issues, such as its Hong Kong crackdown, the Xinjiang internments, and increasingly assertive actions in Asia, including towards Taiwan, which China claims as its own.
China denies accusations of abuses in Xinjiang, and has said the complexes it set up in the region provided vocational training to help stamp out “Islamist extremism and separatism”.
Former President Donald Trump imposed sanctions on Chinese officials and firms his administration linked to the abuses in Xinjiang, and President Biden, who took office on January 20, has made clear he plans to continue a tough approach to Beijing on this and other issues.
Earlier this month, the US Department of State said it was “deeply disturbed” by a BBC report of systematic rape and sexual abuse against women in internment camps for ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims in the Xinjiang region.
China denies accusations of abuses in Xinjiang and said the report was “wholly without factual basis”.
It also barred BBC World News from its television networks following the publication of the report.