It was said of Yasser Arafat that he never lost the opportunity to lose an opportunity. As the protests in China unfold, the same sentiment can be applied to President Biden and his national security team. In what is turning out to be one of the most barbaric implementations of COVID-19 lockdown policies, the Beijing government is brutalizing its citizens. Communist Chinese Party (CCP) security forces are beating and arresting peaceful protesters holding up pieces of white paper with no writing or symbols. The paper is blank because the CCP outlaws protest slogans. Rather than stand up for free speech, the freedom to assemble, and other basic human rights, however, President Biden and his administration are standing on the sidelines, essentially approving China’s oppression of its people.
The peaceful protests grew spontaneously over the news of an apartment building fire in the Xinjiang province of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), which killed ten people, including a small child, and injured others. The outrage erupted when it was learned that firefighters were prevented from providing a more rapid response because of draconian coronavirus lockdown procedures – which effectively imprisoned the apartment building residents to burn to death.
China Puts Down Protest Over Basic Rights
Meanwhile, the Chinese government is doing everything possible to stop the protests. Chris Buckley, writing for The New York Times, explained:
“Public security personnel and vehicles have blanketed potential protest sites. Police officers are searching some residents’ phones for prohibited apps. Officials are going to the homes of would-be protesters to warn them against illegal activities and are taking some away for questioning. Censors are scrubbing protest symbols and slogans from social media.”
Many of the protesters are calling for China’s President Xi to step down. There is a targeted campaign to destroy dissent among the Chinese people. The PRC’s state media reported that security officials were to suppress “illegal and criminal acts that disrupt social order,” Buckley said. Two Chinese cities – Guangzhou and Chongqing – have eased COVID curbs after the protests, but nowhere in the nation are they being lifted entirely – and Xi Jinping certainly isn’t expected to cave to the protesters’ demands to resign. So what is the Biden administration saying about the CCP’s assault on fundamental freedoms in China?
In a press conference, White House National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communication John Kirby made the administration’s position on freedom of speech clear. When asked what President Biden’s reaction was “when he hears protesters in China chant ‘freedom’ or ‘Xi Jinping step down,” Kirby responded: “The president’s not going to speak for protesters. These protesters are speaking for themselves.” This answer is not a ringing endorsement of freedom of speech. Kirby could have said something along the lines of: “The United States stands solidly behind the Chinese people’s right to assemble, dissent, and speak freely. Those calling for Xi to take notice, have every right to say so.” Such a statement does embody inherent human values for which America is supposed to stand. But, of course, he didn’t say that.
Even a Top Conservative Won’t Speak Up
“We don’t want our words/endorsements to discredit the protesters as American instruments. I’m open to persuasion otherwise, but publicly demanding compliance with human rights standards (and backing that up with action) is more important,” David French tweeted in tacit agreement with Kirby’s statement. French, a supposedly conservative political commentator, gets the issue entirely wrong.
The US standing up and decrying Beijing’s stamping out free speech will never reach the ears of the protesters, but it would resonate with the people in other dictator-run countries. Were French able to point to an example of the Biden administration “demanding” anything from the PRC or “backing that up with action,” his words would have more impact. To cower behind the notion that the president of the United States speaking out against oppression discredits the message is absurd.
“You’re seeing millions of people risking their lives taking to the street … Joe Biden ought to stand up and unequivocally stand with the people of China and say they deserve to be free. But this White House won’t do that,” Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) told Fox News. China is a threat to the United States, militarily and economically. The Xi government has one of the worst human rights records on the planet. The Chinese people are protesting being imprisoned in their apartments or houses, unable to get food – and that’s the situation for hundreds of thousands in the Asian country.
As the security forces suppressed the civil unrest, the message morphed from displeasure over the COVID lockdown to protesting for the freedom to make their grievances known. The Biden administration should take the time to speak for freedom. Unfortunately, it looks like the White House will reject the opportunity.
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.
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