Chamath Palihapitiya, a Sri-Lanken born U.S. billionaire venture capitalist, said during a podcast over the weekend that “nobody cares” about ongoing human rights abuses against the Muslim minority Uyghur population in China’s Xinjiang province, which both President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden’s administrations have labeled genocide.
During an episode of his “All In” podcast on Saturday, co-host Jason Calacanis credited the Biden administration for releasing a statement condemning human rights abuses against the Uyghurs. Palihapitiya then responded at approximately the 14:57 timestamp by saying, “Nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs, okay.”
“You bring it up because you really care and I think it’s nice that you care but the rest of us don’t care,” Palihapitiya continued. “I’m telling you a very hard ugly truth, okay. Of all the things that I care about, yes it is below my line.”
“I care that our economy could turn on a dime if China invades Taiwan, I care about that. I care about climate change. I care about America’s crippling and, you know, decrepit healthcare infrastructure,” Palihapitiya said. “But if you’re asking me do I care about a segment of a class of a people in another country, not until we can take care of ourselves will I prioritize them over us.”
“Every time I say that I care about the Uyghurs, I’m really just lying if I don’t really care. And so, I’d rather not lie to you and tell you the truth, it’s not a priority for me,” Palihapitiya said.
Palihapitiya and his podcast co-hosts continued to discuss the topic for more than 40 minutes. During their conversation, Palihapitiya repeatedly compared the human rights abuses in China to the death of George Floyd and criminal justice debates in the U.S.
Palihapitiya’s comments caught backlash and by Monday, the Golden State Warriors NBA Team — of which CNBC reports Palihapitiya owns about 10 percent — issued a statement drawing distance from their part owner.
The NBA team said Palihapitiya is “a limited investor who has no day-to-day operating functions” and “does not speak on behalf of our franchise, and his views certainly don’t reflect those of our organization.”
By Monday, Palihapitiya also sought the chance to clarify his remarks.
“Important issues deserve nuanced discussions. Some clarifying comments,” Palihapitiya tweeted, along with an attached statement.
“In relistening to this week’s podcast, I recognize that came across as lacking empathy. I acknowledge that entirely,” Palihapitiya wrote. “As a refugee, my family fled a country with its own set of human rights issues so this is something that is very much a part of my lived experience.”
Palihapitiya, who was born in Sri Lanka and his family moved to Canada in the early 1980s. He later moved to the U.S. and worked in Silicon Valley as a vice president of AOL. Palihapitiya went on to work for Facebook and in various venture capital investments.
“To be clear, my belief is that human rights matter, whether in China, the United States, or elsewhere. Full stop,” Palihapitiya said.
Adding to the backlash following Palihapitiya’s comments, Sen. Tom Cotton released a statement calling on the NBA to force him to sell his interest in the Warriors.
“Woke CEO Chamath Palihapitiya said no one cares about the Chinese Communist Party’s mass enslavement, torture, and rape of religious minorities. He may be so callous that he doesn’t care about genocide, but the American people do. The NBA has investigated owners and forced a sale after outrageous comments before, and it even moved the All-Star game to protest a North Carolina law saying boys and girls shouldn’t use the same bathroom. The league will prove itself greedy, spineless, and hypocritical if it doesn’t force Palihapitiya to sell his interest in the Warriors.”