FACT CHECK: Did Joe Biden Dismiss China’s Treatment Of Uighurs During A CNN Town Hall?

Elias Atienza | Fact Check Reporter

An image shared on Facebook claims President Joe Biden dismissed China’s treatment of Uighurs, a minority ethnic group living in China’s Xinjiang region, as part of China’s “different norms.”

Verdict: False

While Biden did mention “different norms” in his answer about the Uighurs, his statement in context did not dismiss China’s actions, the transcript shows. Instead, he reiterated that China would face repercussions for its treatment of the minority group.

Fact Check:

The Dutch Parliament on Thursday passed a non-binding motion that declared China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims to be genocide, Reuters reported. The State Department under the Trump administration also determined that China enacted genocide against the Uighurs, and Antony Blinken, the U.S. Secretary of State, stated in a Jan. 28 press conference “my judgment remains that genocide was committed against – against the Uighurs.”

A Feb. 20 image on Facebook claims, “Biden dismisses Uighur genocide as part of China’s ‘different norms.'” The post appears to be referencing comments Biden made during a Feb. 16 CNN town hall hosted by Anderson Cooper. (RELATED: Does This Image Show Joe Biden’s ‘Chinese Handler’?)

A review of the transcript shows that Biden did not, in fact, dismiss China’s actions against the Uighurs. During the town hall, Biden and Cooper briefly discussed the Uighurs, with Biden starting by saying, “We must speak up for human rights. It’s who we are.”

Biden then discussed his call with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, saying, “I said, look – 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,” according to the transcript.

“I pointed out to him [Xi], no American president can be sustained as a president if he doesn’t reflect the values of the United States,” Biden went on to say. “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, the One-China policy by making it forceful… By the way, [Xi] said he gets it.”

While Biden did acknowledge that there are “different norms at each country and their leaders are expected to follow,” he did not dismiss the treatment of the Uighurs and, instead, reiterated that he would speak out against the abuses, the transcript shows.

“There will be repercussions for China and he knows that,” Biden said when pressed further by Cooper. “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 and other agencies that have an impact on their attitude.”

Daniel Dale, a fact check reporter for CNN, likewise tweeted the claim that Biden dismissed the Uighur genocide was inaccurate.

“This caption is misleading,” the tweet reads. “Biden was emphasizing the need to speak out against China’s human rights abuses, saying presidents have to reflect US values. He then said Xi gets that there are different cultural norms for the behavior of different countries’ leaders.”

Elias Atienza

Fact Check Reporter
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