China protests over Japan-U.S. statement on human rights; blasts U.S. ‘evil past of genocide’

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, speaks during a virtual meeting with embassy staff at the American Center Korea in Seoul, South Korea, after arriving from Tokyo on Wednesday. Photo: AP/Lee Jin-man, Pool

China has protested to the United States and Japan over a joint statement it said “maliciously attacked” its foreign policy and seriously interfered in China’s internal affairs, the Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said China was “strongly dissatisfied and resolutely opposed” to the statement.

His comments came a day before U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is due to meet with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and top foreign policy adviser Yang Jiechi in Alaska.

The China-Japan statement expressed concern over threats to Taiwan, Beijing’s human rights violations in Xinjiang, its activities in the South China Sea and “unilateral action that seeks to change the status quo” over Japan-controlled East China Sea islands that China also claims.

The statement “maliciously attacked China’s foreign policy, seriously interfered in China’s internal affairs and tried to harm China’s interests,” Zhao told reporters at a daily briefing. “China is strongly dissatisfied and resolutely opposed to this, and we have made solemn representations to the United States and Japan respectively.”

There was no indication that the Alaska talks had been derailed and Zhao said China was prepared to discuss its policies on Xinjiang and Hong Kong.

“But the U.S. attempt to deliberately mislead public opinion before the meeting and exert pressure on China will not succeed,” Zhao said. “We urge the U.S. side to adhere to the basic norms of international relations and not to engage in things that endanger China’s core interests.”

Blinken and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin held talks with Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi Tuesday, afterwards saying that democracy and human rights are being challenged and the United States will push with its partners for a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Blinken said the Biden administration is committed to work with U.S. allies as they face challenges from China and its ally North Korea, which is pursuing an illicit nuclear weapons program.

“We will push back if necessary, when China uses coercion or aggression to get its way,” he said.

Blinken has said the Alaska meeting is part of an effort to introduce new clarity into the relationship between the world’s two biggest economies.

In Geneva, China on Wednesday blasted the United States’ human rights record, citing what it called U.S. failures against COVID-19 that cost “hundreds of thousands of lives,” as well as racial discrimination, police brutality, and an “evil past of genocide.”

Jiang Duan, a counsellor at the Chinese mission in Geneva, voiced the criticism at the end of an examination of the U.S. rights record at the Human Rights Council, part of a regular review faced by all countries at the United Nations’ top human rights body.

The comments testified to growing outspokenness of Chinese diplomats, and the swelling rivalry between the world’s top two economic powers. The U.S. has repeatedly criticized China’s rights record on issues like the rights of protesters in Hong Kong and the detention of Muslim Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region.

In a brief but sharp statement, Jiang criticized U.S. military interventions abroad that had resulted in “tremendous deaths of civilians” and faulted U.S. forces for having “slaughtered innocent civilians and conducted torture” in other countries.

“The U.S. neither apologizes for its evil past of genocide nor provides reparation to the victims,” he said, without elaborating. “The U.S. has failed to take effective measures to control the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives.”

Jiang said the U.S. didn’t accept most of China’s recommendations during the review.

Lisa Peterson, the U.S. acting assistant secretary for democracy, human rights and labor, said the U.S. was “very proud” that it had accepted more than four-fifths of 347 recommendations put up by other countries on ways the U.S. could improve its rights record.

She outlined U.S. support for some recommendations and pointed to U.S. efforts on issues such as the rights of migrants and indigenous peoples, climate change, and improving Americans’ access to health care during the pandemic.

Peterson said “no issue is more central to the goals and policies” of the Biden administration than “addressing systematic racism —- forthrightly, honestly and powerfully — and the legacy of discrimination in our country.”

“We’re not perfect — far from it — but we are going to keep striving to live up to our highest ideals and principles,” she said, shortly before Jiang and other diplomats spoke.

The new administration has resumed U.S. participation at the Geneva-based council after a 2-1/2-year absence under former President Donald Trump. Washington is now seeking a seat on the 47-member council for a three-year term starting in 2022.

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