China will pay a price for its human rights abuses: Biden

US President Joe Biden (left) at a CNN town hall hosted by anchor Anderson Cooper at the Pabst Theatre in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Tuesday. At the televised event, Mr Biden said the United States will reassert its global role in speaking up for human
US President Joe Biden (left) at a CNN town hall hosted by anchor Anderson Cooper at the Pabst Theatre in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Tuesday. At the televised event, Mr Biden said the United States will reassert its global role in speaking up for human rights, adding that he would work with the international community to get China to protect them.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WASHINGTON • China will pay a price for its human rights abuses, United States President Joe Biden warned on Tuesday, responding to queries on the Asian nation's handling of Muslim minorities in its Xinjiang region, during a televised event.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has drawn global criticism for holding the minority Uighurs in internment camps and other human rights abuses - accusations that Beijing has repeatedly rejected.

"Well, there will be repercussions for China and he knows that," Mr Biden said of Mr Xi, when pressed on the issue at the town hall event televised on broadcaster CNN.

The US will reassert its global role in speaking up for human rights, Mr Biden said, adding that he would work with the international community to get China to protect them.

"China is trying very hard to become a world leader and to get that moniker and be able to do that they have to gain the confidence of other countries," Mr Biden said.

"As long as they are engaged in activity that is contrary to basic human rights, it is going to be hard for them to do that," he added.

In a two-hour phone call with Mr Xi earlier this month, Mr Biden stressed the US priority of preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific region, where the US and China are major strategic rivals.

He also voiced concern about Beijing's "coercive and unfair" trade practices and rights issues, such as its Hong Kong crackdown, the Xinjiang internments, and increasingly assertive actions in Asia, including towards Taiwan, which China claims as its own.

Separately, Canada and other nations are considering labelling China's treatment of its Uighur minority a genocide, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday.

This comes after Mr Donald Trump's outgoing administration last month said that Beijing's incarceration of mostly Muslim minorities in its far western Xinjiang region amounted to genocide and crimes against humanity.

"It's a word that is extremely loaded and is certainly something that we should be looking at in the case of the Uighurs," Mr Trudeau told a news conference.

"I know the international community is looking very carefully at that and we are certainly among them, and we will not hesitate from being part of the determinations around these sorts of things."

He said there was "no question" there had been significant reports of human rights abuses coming out of Xinjiang.

Rights groups say at least one million Uighurs and other Turkic-speaking Muslims have been incarcerated in camps in Xinjiang.

China has denied wrongdoing and contends that its camps are vocational training centres meant to reduce the allure of Islamic extremism in the wake of attacks.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 18, 2021, with the headline 'China will pay a price for its human rights abuses: Biden'. Subscribe