China Tension Under Biden Underscored by Human Rights Report
An annual human rights report released by the State Department accused the Chinese government of “crimes against humanity” and reaffirmed a decision to label China’s treatment of minority Uyghurs in its western region of Xinjiang as “genocide.”
The publication Tuesday of the “2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices” signaled continued tensions with China under President Joe Biden, who has maintained many of the Trump administration’s hard-line policies against Beijing.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at a news conference on the report that the U.S. was looking into “consequences” for human rights violators, citing economic sanctions and visa restrictions against Chinese officials as an example. Such actions are most effective, he said, when conducted together with allies.
Blinken also signaled a departure from former President Donald Trump’s administration on issues such as LGBTQ and reproductive rights, saying the current administration “decisively” repudiates a narrower focus on certain rights under Trump’s Secretary of State Michael Pompeo. Pompeo elevated rights such as religious freedom championed by Trump’s conservative supporters while denigrating others, such as LGBTQ and abortion rights, as “pet causes.”
By contrast, Blinken called all human rights “co-equal,” with no hierarchy. That was demonstrated in the report, which criticized Zimbabwe’s government for leaving LGBTQ persons “vulnerable to violence, discrimination, and harassment.” Blinken also promised an addendum later this year on reproductive rights, a topic that was removed from the annual report under Trump.
In addition to its unsparing assessment of China, the report criticized the Russian government’s targeting of political dissidents, government-led “atrocities” in Syria, and the “humanitarian crisis” in Venezuela. It also cited crackdowns on opposition groups in countries such as Nicaragua and Turkmenistan.
“Unchecked human rights abuses anywhere can contribute to a sense of impunity everywhere,” Blinken wrote in the preface to the annual report. “That is precisely why this administration has placed human rights front and center in its foreign policy.”
Blinken also nodded to the U.S.’s own shortcomings, which governments including China and Russia have used to accuse America of hypocrisy on the issue of human rights. During the news conference, the top U.S. diplomat cited “systemic racism” in the U.S. as an example.
“Recognizing that there is work to be done at home, we are also striving to live up to our highest ideals and principles and are committed to working toward a fairer and more just society in the United States,” Blinken wrote in the report.
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