China accused the White House of lying when it claimed President Joe Biden pressed Chinese President Xi Jinping on the country’s systematic abuse of Uyghur Muslims when the leaders spoke by phone Thursday morning.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said after the marathon call that Biden had “raised genocide and forced labor practices” imposed on the minority group by the Chinese Communist Party. There are an estimated 12 million Uyghurs in the northwestern Xinjiang province, where they are tortured, sterilized, imprisoned and treated as slaves, according to international human rights advocates.
“That is something that he raised about human rights, as he always does,” Jean-Pierre claimed. “This is, as we’ve said, that anytime the president has an opportunity, he raises that when he meets with another leader, and called on the [People’s Republic of China] to cease its ongoing human rights abuses across China.”
Honestly, I’ve never heard @POTUS @JoeBiden himself publicly speaking out against China’s ongoing genocide of Uyghurs/Turkic peoples in East Turkistan; it’s always been other officials. Biden needs to uphold his campaign promise & act against the genocide.https://t.co/6lZaj2755i
— Salih Hudayar (سالىھ خۇدايار) (@SalihHudayar) July 29, 2022
But on Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijan called Pierre’s claim Biden got tough with Xi “disinformation.”
“I can tell you that allegations of ‘genocide’ and ‘forced labor’ in Xinjiang are pure lies,” Zhao said. “You said the White House press secretary claimed that ‘genocide’ and ‘forced labor’ came up in last night’s call. That is disinformation.”
Both countries issued readouts of the call, and neither one mentioned the Uyghurs. The U.S. said Biden and Xi “discussed a range of issues important to the bilateral relationship and other regional and global issues.”
The call, which reportedly lasted about two hours, was the fifth conversation between the two leaders since early 2021. They reportedly discussed a variety of topics, including the tension surrounding Taiwan, economic competition, and the war in Ukraine.
Zhao has been highly critical of the U.S this week, especially in light of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s planned visit to Taiwan. The self-governing island is supported by the U.S., but China considers it part of its territory. Beijing has warned it would view Pelosi’s trip as a provocation.
“If the U.S. insists on going its own way and challenging China’s bottom line, it will surely be met with forceful responses,” Zhao told reporters earlier this week. “All ensuing consequences shall be borne by the U.S.”