Democrats Aim Strong Words Against China Over Hong Kong, Uighurs

(Bloomberg) -- Democratic presidential candidates took aim at China on Thursday, with Joe Biden saying that ethnic Uighur Muslims are being kept in “concentration camps” and calling for sanctions against the world’s second-largest economy.

During the party’s debate in Los Angeles, several of the seven 2020 contenders on stage challenged Beijing over its treatment of Muslim minority populations in its western Xinjiang region and its handling of protests in Hong Kong.

“We have to make it clear: This is as far as you go China,” said Biden, who served as vice president under Barack Obama.

Democrats Aim Strong Words Against China Over Hong Kong, Uighurs

China is looming large as a topic in the 2020 campaign. President Donald Trump just reached an interim deal with Beijing that would avoid a further escalation for now of the countries’ almost two-year trade war. Yet analysts are skeptical that much more progress can be made entering the U.S. election year, and the Democratic contenders on Thursday highlighted human-rights questions that have inflamed tensions with the U.S.

Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, said the U.S. and its allies should look to isolate China if it did anything against Hong Kong protesters akin to the 1989 crackdown in Tiananmen Square.


“If they perpetrate a repeat of anything like Tiananmen Square, when it comes to Hong Kong, they will be isolated from the free world, and we will lead that isolation diplomatically and economically,” Buttigieg said. He added that all options should be on the table, including social and economic tools like a possible boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Democrats Aim Strong Words Against China Over Hong Kong, Uighurs

Billionaire investor Tom Steyer said the U.S. should form a coalition to “push back” on China but added that America shouldn’t be trying to be the “world’s policeman.” Instead, China should be treated as a “frenemy,” he said.

Tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang, noting that he has family in Hong Kong, said the rivalry between the U.S. and China is one that “we have to win.” He said the Chinese are already way ahead of the U.S. on technology, while adding that authorities banned face masks in Hong Kong because they interfere with artificial intelligence that uses facial recognition to identify protesters.

Hong Kong protesters have largely ignored the mask ban, which a court voided last month. The local government is appealing the decision.

(Michael Bloomberg is also seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, but didn’t take part in the debate. Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.)

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.