Biden warns Xi on Hong Kong, Uighurs

Sanctions on exports to China may also be widened, official says on day world’s two most powerful leaders speak for first time since US president’s election 

Biden warns Xi on Hong Kong, Uighurs
Biden first met Xi when he was vice-president under Barack Obama's administration from 2009 to 2017. Photo: Reuters

(ATF) Joe Biden expressed his concern about China’s treatment of Hong Kong and the minority Muslim Uighur people during the US president's first call with his Chinese counterpart. 

Earlier the new US administration warned it may widen its China sanctions list over concern that sensitive technology exports are being misused.   

The US president “underscored his fundamental concerns about Beijing’s coercive and unfair economic practices, crackdown in Hong Kong, human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and increasingly assertive actions in the region, including toward Taiwan”.

The comments came in Biden’s first telephone conversation with Xi Jinping since taking office last month. 

Also on ATF

China has been chastised by the US for imposing a strict anti-sedition law on the former British colony in its prosperous south and for oppressing Muslim minorities in the country’s far-northwest.

Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, said Xi had in turn warned Biden that the world’s biggest powers needed to work together.

“When China and the United States cooperate, both sides gain, and when they fight, both are harmed,” Xi said, according to Xinhua. “Chinese-US cooperation can achieve many great things that benefit both countries and the whole world. Confrontation between China and the US would certainly be a disaster for both countries and the world.”  

Targeted restrictions

The Biden administration will look at adding "new targeted restrictions" on certain sensitive technology exports to China in cooperation with allies, a senior official said before the two leaders spoke.

The US will also not move to lift Chinese trade tariffs imposed by the Trump administration before it has conducted "intense consultation and review" with allies, the official told reporters during a briefing.

"We are maintaining those tariffs while we conduct our review because we're not going to act precipitously," he said.

"President Biden's major criticism of the Trump strategy here was not that he wasn't getting tough on China on trade, but that he was doing so alone, while also fighting our allies."

The official said no decisions had been made yet on whether to lift the tariffs and that there would be areas of "continuity" with Trump's policies.

"One of them is to ensure that we are not supplying highly sensitive technology that can advance China's military capabilities. We will be bearing down on that," he said, adding the administration would look at new targeted restrictions on technology exports to China in consultation with US allies.

The official said Biden aimed to quickly work with Republicans to boost public investment in technology sectors crucial to the United States' economic edge, including semiconductors, biotechnology and artificial intelligence.

With reporting by Reuters

China Us Xi Jinping Joe Biden US