Republican lawmakers are piling on the criticism against President Joe Biden for his silence on the ongoing anti-lockdown protests in China and calls for freedom and the resignations of the country’s ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leaders, including President Xi Jinping.
Biden has yet to offer his own direct statement on the protests that have spread throughout China and persisted for days. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the U.S. State Department and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan also have not provided a comment on the protests.
Rather than Biden, Blinken and Sullivan making any direct public statements on the issue, the Biden administration had a White House National Security (NSC) spokesperson deliver a comment to the press in a background call on Monday. In the statement, the spokesperson said the Biden administration believes it would “be very difficult for the People’s Republic of China to be able to contain this virus through their zero COVID strategy” and then said “everyone has the right to peacefully protest, here in the United States and around the world. This includes in the PRC.”
Later on Monday, NSC spokesman John Kirby said Biden is “staying briefed” on the protests in China and reiterated that “people should be allowed the right to assemble and peacefully protest.”
Those Biden administration comments about the protests in China weren’t satisfying for a number of Republican lawmakers, like U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and U.S. Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ).
“The Biden Administration’s weak rejection of the CCP’s zero-Covid policy and refusal to call out General Secretary Xi’s totalitarian grip is nothing short of cowardly,” Rubio and Smith said in a joint statement. “Just weeks after shaking hands with Xi in Bali, President Biden and his administration have once again demonstrated that they are unwilling to stand up to the CCP and stand in solidarity with the Chinese people.”
On Monday, Republican House Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), tweeted. “The Chinese Communist Party’s lockdowns have imprisoned people against their will—many have died. As Chinese citizens bravely protest, Joe Biden & the corporate class shrug. Our Select Committee on China will do what Biden refuses—finally reckon with the pariah that is the CCP.”
In a Tuesday statement, Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) called on the Biden administration to take “concrete steps” to support the protestors in China, including sanctioning Chinese officials involved in violent responses and protests, and Chinese firms supporting the Chinese government’s surveillance systems.
In a Tuesday tweet, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) questioned whether the Biden administration’s response was muted in order to advance Biden’s negotiations with Xi on a new agreement to counter climate change.
“Could the climate change deal be the reason the Biden White House is remaining silent on the China protests?” Blackburn tweeted.
The Biden administration’s response to the protests in China differs from the response it offered just recently to the death of an Iranian woman in Iranian morality police custody in September and the protests and riots her death sparked in Iran.
On Sept. 16, the same day Amini died, Sullivan tweeted, “We are deeply concerned by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was reportedly beaten in custody by Iran’s morality police. Her death is unforgivable. We will continue to hold Iranian officials accountable for such human right abuses. #MahsaAmini مهسا_امینی#.”
On Sept. 19, Blinken tweeted, “Mahsa Amini should be alive today. Instead, the United States and the Iranian people mourn her. We call on the Iranian government to end its systemic persecution of women and to allow peaceful protest. #مهسا_امینی.”
Biden, Sullivan and Blinken have all continued to specifically denounce the Iranian government’s response to the protests on Twitter. And administration officials have continued to condemn the Iranian government’s morality police and their responses to protests in press White House press briefings over the past two months.