China Dodges Genocide Reports as Xi Jinping and Joe Biden Disagree on Human Rights

President Joe Biden raised concerns about China's treatment of Uyghurs during a virtual summit with opposite number Xi Jinping on Monday, according to a White House readout that failed to mention the word "genocide" or discuss American representation at the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing.

The White House said Biden spoke "candidly and straightforwardly" to Xi, raising concerns about China's "practices in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong, as well as human rights more broadly." Rights groups, researchers and the State Department have determined that "genocide" and "crimes against humanity" are ongoing against Muslim ethnic groups living in northwestern China.

The Biden administration upheld the "genocide" determination first declared by the outgoing administration of former President Donald Trump in January, making the United States the first major government to associate itself with the assessment. Just two months later, the U.S. led Canada, the U.K. and EU in joint sanctions targeting Chinese officials responsible for the mistreatment of Uyghurs.

It has also promised a coordinated response with allies and partners regarding the possibility of a diplomatic boycott of Beijing 2022, but an announcement has yet to emerge with the event just 80 days away.

During the extensive Biden-Xi talks on Monday—hours after Biden signed into law the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill—the Chinese president said his country was "ready to have dialogues on human rights on the basis of mutual respect."

But Xi expressed Beijing's opposition to "using human rights to meddle in other countries' internal affairs." American and Chinese positions on human rights have remained at odds for several years. China denies any wrongdoing and claims the people of Xinjiang are happier and more prosperous as a result of its governance.

Reports from Human Rights Watch, corroborated by the State Department, describe a number of genocidal actions being undertaken by the Chinese against the 12 million Uyghurs in China.

Human Rights Concerns

This includes reports of mass detentions, forced slave labor, torture, disappearances and sexual crimes. Uyghurs and other members of predominantly Muslim minority ethic groups are reportedly forced to renounce Islam and memorize Chinese Communist Party propaganda.

A Chinese official reportedly described these actions as an effort to "break [the Uyghurs'] lineage, break their roots, break their connections and break their origins."

In light of these accusations, some have felt that Biden hasn't been harsh enough in condemning the actions of the Chinese government.

During a CNN Town Hall in February, Biden stated that he had talked to Xi about the Uyghurs soon after taking office. The president made it clear that China was violating human rights and said that there would be consequences for its actions, but he didn't provide specific details.

"There will be repercussions for China. And [Xi] knows that," Biden said. "What I'm doing is making clear that we, in fact, are going to continue to reassert our role as spokespersons for human rights at the UN."

Respecting Each Other's Values

While Biden made his threat of repercussions clear, he also added that it was important for both China and the U.S. to understand each other's values.

"Culturally, there are different norms that each country and their leaders are expected to follow," Biden said.

A White House spokesperson at the time said that "the president was speaking about the need for U.S. presidents to speak out on universal values, which are deeply held by Americans, and about human dignity everywhere."

Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that the Biden administration was considering banning Chinese imports made from Uyghur labor. He added that "the United States is committed to playing a strong leadership role in global efforts to combat serious human rights abuse."

"We will continue to stand with our allies around the world in calling for an immediate end to [China's] crimes and for justice for the many victims," Blinken continued.

Blinken first met with Chinese officials during a conference in March, and described the talks between the two nations as "candid."

Newsweek has reached out to the White House for comment.

President Joe Biden Meeting
President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping discussed the reported human rights abuses against the Uyghur Muslims during a virtual summit on Monday. Here, Biden can be seen waving to Xi during the summit. Alex Wong/Getty