UNITED NATIONS -- The United States accused China on Friday of committing “genocide and crimes against humanity” against Uyghur Muslims and other minorities, and China accused the U.S. of discrimination, hatred “and even savage murder of people of African and Asian descent.”
The clash came at the U.N. General Assembly’s commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and was sparked by one line in the speech by U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas Greenfield, who talked about being a descendent of slaves, growing up in the segregated South, and surviving racism including being called “an N-word.”
It came after the top U.S. and Chinese diplomats wrapped up two days of contentious talks in Alaska, the first high-level face-to-face meeting since President Joe Biden took office. In rare public comments, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi traded sharply different views of each other's country and the world.
Thomas-Greenfield was unusually outspoken about U.S. history, saying, “Slavery is the original sin of America.”
“It’s weaved white supremacy and black inferiority into our founding documents and principles,” she said.
Thomas-Greenfield said slavery has existed in every corner of the globe, “and sadly still exists today,” and so does racism, which “continues to be a daily challenge wherever we are.”
For millions, she said, it’s even deadly, including in Myanmar where Rohingya Muslims and others “have been oppressed, abused and killed in staggering numbers.”
“Or in China, where the government has committed genocide and crimes against humanity against Uyghurs and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang,” Thomas-Greenfield said.
China’s deputy U.N. ambassador, Dai Bing, who wasn’t on the original speakers list, took the floor near the end of the commemoration to reject what he called the politically motivated U.S. allegation, calling it “an act of rumor-mongering through and through, and a bare-faced lie.”
He accused the U.S. of interfering in China’s internal affairs and said that “lies are just lies and truth shall prevail eventually.”
Referring to Thomas-Greenfield’s speech about her African descent, Dai said the U.S. envoy, “in an exceptional case, admitted to her country’s ignoble human rights record, but that does not give the country license to get on the high horse and tell other countries what to do.”
Dai had some advice for the United States: “Cast away your ideological prejudice" and stop using human rights for political purposes and provoking political confrontations and disrupting international cooperation on human rights.
“I suggest that you take practical measures to put an end to a continued stream of incidents of discrimination and hatred against, and even savage murder of, people of African and Asian descent that are ongoing," Dai said.
And the U.S. would “serve the international human rights cause better by putting more effort in practical and constructive action,” he said.
Thomas-Greenfield also had some advice on confronting racism.
“We need to dismantle white supremacy at every turn,” she said.
“This means looking at other kinds of hate, too,” the U.S, ambassador said, pointing to FBI reports of a spike in hate crimes over the past three years, recently to a level not seen in over a decade — “particularly against Latino Americans, Sikhs, Muslim Americans, Jewish Americans, and immigrants.”
“The mass shooting in Atlanta is only the latest example of this horror,” she said, referring to this week’s alleged killing by a white gunmen of eight people, six of them Asian and seven of them women.
“It is so important we stand together — we stand unified — against this scourge,” Thomas Greenfield said.
“We have flaws — deep, serious flaws. But we talk about them. We work to address them,” she said of the United States.
Alluding to China, Myanmar and other countries, Thomas-Greenfield said: “We can do the same on a multilateral scale. Let us expose the racism and racial discrimination endemic in every society, around the globe.”