President Joe Biden denounced torture Saturday, but skipped a chance to name — and shame — China.
“Torture, wherever it occurs, is a stain on our moral conscience,” Biden declared as he marked the anniversary of a United Nations convention banning the practice worldwide. “We all must redouble our efforts to end such inhumane practice for good.”
The president touted his administration’s support of refugee resettlement programs for torture survivors and federal contributions to a UN fund supporting torture victims, and quoted the late Sen. John McCain — “my friend and a torture survivor,” Biden noted — on the topic.
“Torture goes against everything we stand for as a nation, and we must never again resort to its use,” he said.
But he avoided any pointed reference to the numerous reports that China has deployed torture against members of its Uighur minority held in forced labor camps in the Xinjiang region — or to China’s alleged torture of an Australian writer accused of spying.
The president urged his counterparts at this month’s G-7 summit in Cornwall, England to call China out on such abuses — to no avail. Instead, the group issued a toothless statement that merely encouraged China to “respect human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
“I think there’s plenty of action on China,” Biden insisted in a press conference at the summit’s close, as reporters pushed him on the leaders’ mild response.
“The G-7 explicitly agreed to call out human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Hong Kong,” he said. “I think we’re in a contest, not with China per se, but a contest with autocrats, autocratic governments around the world.”
But even the G-7’s carefully worded language, which outlined no repercussions if China continued its behavior, drew a sharp response from the Chinese embassy in London.
“The days when global decisions were dictated by a small group of countries are long gone,” a spokesperson said.
The Chinese government has been accused of enslaving about 1 million Uighur Muslims and subjecting them to rape, forced sterilizations and other brutalities.
One former detainee who fled to Turkey alleged he was “tortured day and night” by Chinese soldiers during his imprisonment — and China banned the BBC News in February after it published a story on torture in the Xinjiang camps.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.