U.S. and Chinese ambassadors at U.N. spar over racism

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield argued with China’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations Dai Bing on Friday (March 19) about racism. Thomas-Greenfield described her own experience with racism as challenging, but, she said, deadly for millions of people in countries like China and Myanmar.

Speaking at a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield said, “Racism has been and remains a daily challenge wherever we are. And for millions of people, it’s not just challenging, it’s deadly.”

As in Burma, she said, “Rohingya and other ethnic groups have been oppressed, abused and killed in staggering numbers. Or in China, where the government has committed genocide and Crimes Against Humanity against members of the Uighurs in Xinjiang and other ethnic and religious minorities in northwest China.”

Ambassador Dai Bing, China’s deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, said Thomas Greenfield “acknowledged her country’s record of disregard for human rights in one particular case, and that doesn’t mean giving her country a license to ride on a high horse and tell other countries what to do.”

The controversy underscored the tensions between the world’s two largest economic powers a day after the first high-level meeting between the U.S. and China since President Biden took office.

Speaking at the 193-member U.N. General Assembly, Dai Bing said, “If the United States truly cares about human rights, they should address the deep-rooted problems of racial discrimination, social injustice and police brutality on their own soil.”

Thomas-Greenfield said she is a descendant of slaves and recalled her own experiences with racism, such as when she was a teenager helping to care for a child who asked her “if I was an n-word (a surrogate for the racist word used against people of African descent in the United States) because her father had called me by that word.”

The killing of George Floyd by police in Minnesota last May and the killing of black men by police elsewhere have sparked nationwide protests against racism and law enforcement excesses.

We have flaws, serious flaws, but we’re able to talk about it,” Thomas Greenfield said. We’re committed to addressing those issues. We continue to move forward.”

She also spoke about the attack that occurred in Georgia that killed six women, including six of Asian descent.

China has been widely condemned for its crackdown on Uighur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang. China has described it as a “vocational training center” to eradicate extremism and denies accusations of abuse.

Dai Bing said there is no “genocide” in Xinjiang.