US pressures China over human rights, regional destabilisation

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday pressured China over human rights issues and warned that Beijing will be held “accountable” for threatening regional stability, during a phone call with China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi.

“The United States will continue to stand up for human rights and democratic values, including in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong,” Blinken told Yang during their first known conversation since he became secretary of state late last month.

According to the U.S. State Department, Blinken pressed China to join the international community in condemning the military coup in Myanmar earlier this week, which reversed the Southeast Asian country’s democratization less than a decade after its transition to civilian rule.

The secretary of state also affirmed that the United States will work together with its allies and partners to hold Beijing “accountable for its efforts to threaten stability in the Indo-Pacific, including across the Taiwan Strait, and its undermining of the rules-based international system,” the department said.

Yang was quoted by the Chinese Foreign Ministry as telling Blinken, “The Taiwan question, the most important and sensitive core issue in China-U.S. relations, bears on China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

In addition, “Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet-related affairs are all China’s internal affairs and allow no interference by any external forces,” Yang said.

“Any attempt to slander and smear China will not succeed, and China will continue to firmly safeguard its sovereignty, security and development interests,” he told Blinken.

The call took place a day after U.S. President Joe Biden vowed in a foreign policy speech to counter China’s economic abuses and aggressive behavior by rebuilding alliances he believes his predecessor Donald Trump undermined, while signaling his readiness to explore areas of cooperation with the Asian power.

The statement on the talks between Blinken and Yang, however, did not mention whether there were any discussions on possible areas of cooperation such as climate change.

The Trump administration also took an increasingly confrontational stance against China toward the end of his presidency, clashing on numerous fronts including trade practices, technology, Hong Kong, Taiwan, human rights issues and control of the South China Sea.