Biden talks to Xi, raises human right concerns

US President Joe Biden raised the issue of human rights in Xinjiang, the crackdown in Hong Kong and the trade disputes in his first discussion with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jingping after taking over, the White House said on Thursday.

The two leaders also discussed measures to counter the Covid-19 pandemic, the challenges of global health security, climate change and weapons proliferation in the call which came ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year.

“I told him I will work with China when it benefits the American people,” Biden tweeted after the call.

In a statement, the White House said the President had “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”.

China’s state broadcaster CCTV said that the two “had an in-depth exchange of views on the bilateral relationship and major international and regional issues”, the BBC reported.

Xi also warned Biden that bad relations would be a disaster for both countries, Chinese media reported.

US-China ties have seen soaring tensions during the Donald Trump presidency on issues such as trade and the Covid-19 pandemic. However, following Trump’s defeat, China has urged the Biden administration to improve relations.