White House: Biden tells Xi of concern about human rights abuses

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U.S. President Joe Biden spoke to his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, to voice concern human rights abuses in Xinjiang and expressed “fundamental concerns about Beijing’s coercive and unfair economic practices,’’ the White House said late Wednesday.

In the pair’s first phone call, since Biden took office last month, the U.S. president also broached China’s “crackdown in Hong Kong… and increasingly assertive actions in the region, including toward Taiwan,’’ according to a statement.

In turn, China’s president warned him against a “confrontation” that “is definitely disastrous for both countries and the world’’, state news agency Xinhua reported.

China’s president countered that Hong Kong, Taiwan and Xinjiang were “China’s internal affairs” and related to its sovereignty and territorial integrity, as quoted by Xinhua news agency.

“The U.S. should respect China’s core interests and act cautiously,’’ he reportedly said.

The two leaders reportedly exchanged views on countering the coronavirus pandemic and the shared challenges of global health security, climate change, and preventing weapons proliferation.

Biden also advocated for a “free and open Indo-Pacific’’.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, a key shipping lane believed to be rich in marine and mineral resources.

It has built artificial islands with military-capable facilities over disputed reefs and outcrops in the area.

The U.S. has been advocating for freedom of navigation in the disputed maritime area and has conducted navy and military drills there.

Biden also shared well wishes with the Chinese people for the Lunar New Year.

Xi Jinping also advocated “restoring” the various channels of dialogue between the two countries to promote better understanding and avoid misunderstanding, according to Xinhua.

In addition to diplomatic channels, China’s president also cited an expansion of contacts in business, finance, law enforcement and between the two armed forces.

Taiwan’s Presidential Office spokesperson, Xavier Chang, said in a statement that “we admire and thank President Biden for his concerns on the security across the Taiwan Strait and issues about human rights’’.

Chang stressed that Taiwan would continue collaborating with like-minded nations, including the U.S., to contribute efforts to the stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.

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