Joe Biden Dismissed China’s Uyghur Genocide Before Berating Putin

Chip Somodevilla, Nicolas Asfouri/Getty Images

President Joe Biden condemned Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin as guilty of “genocide” on Tuesday, referencing the ongoing war in Ukraine – a much harsher line than Biden’s prior attempts to explain away Chinese dictator Xi Jinping’s genocide against Uyghur Muslims in China.

Biden defended his description of Putin’s war in Ukraine as “genocide” arguing, “it’s become clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out even the idea of being Ukrainian.”

International law defines the crime of genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” Among the specific acts listed in the definition are killing, forcibly transferring children away from the group, or “inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”

Putin has argued that Ukraine has no identity and is not a legitimate country.

“Modern Ukraine was completely created by Russia – to be more exact by Bolshevik communist Russia,” Putin said in February, adding they “never had stable traditions of their own statehood.”

Unlike the situation in Ukraine, international human rights scholars largely agree that China’s campaign to sterilize, kill, enslave, and indoctrinate members of Muslim-majority ethnic groups in occupied East Turkistan is a genocide. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has publicly called the extermination of Uyghurs and other groups in the region a genocide, following the declaration by predecessor Mike Pompeo.

The Uyghur Tribunal, an independent group of human rights attorneys studying the matter, ruled in December that China had “beyond a reasonable doubt” committed genocide, explicitly citing the use of infanticide, forced abortion, and forced sterilization as showing intent to destroy these communities. The Tribunal concluded that evidence confirmed Xi had personally ordered the genocide to take place.

Biden has rarely addressed the situation and has been hesitant to personally use similar language to call out China’s atrocities. On one occasion, Biden appeared to justify the genocide.

Shortly after taking office, Biden alarmed activists when he indicated during a CNN town hall he would not criticize what Xi was doing to the Uyghur people, citing “different norms” between the two countries. He said:

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.

Biden has resisted personally criticizing Xi, though his proxies have done so. During the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden’s spokesperson described the atrocities against the Uyghurs as “genocide” in a statement noting that “Joe Biden stands against it in the strongest terms.”

Yet Biden himself frequently boasts of his alleged friendship with Xi during his speeches, including an appearance last week to celebrate the confirmation vote for his Supreme Court justice nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson.

“I was in the foothills of the Himalayas with Xi Jinping, traveling with him,” he mused. “Traveled 17,000 miles when I was Vice President at the time. I don’t know that for a fact. And we were sitting alone.  I had an interpreter and he had an interpreter.”


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.