Former U.S. Amb. to China Claims Hong Kong Protesters ‘Went Too Far,’ Denies China Carrying Out Genocide of Uyghurs

Pro-democracy protesters march during a demonstration near a flag-raising ceremony on the anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China in Hong Kong, China, July 1, 2020. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

A former U.S. ambassador to China claimed on Wednesday that the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and the Hong Kong protests of 2019 “went too far,” while also denying that China is engaged in a genocide of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang province.

Ambassador J. Stapleton Roy, who served as U.S. envoy to China from 1991 to 1995, made the remarks during a Zoom session with Pomona University’s Model United Nations. Roy is the founding director emeritus for the Kissinger Institute for Chinese-U.S. Studies at the Woodrow Wilson Center, a think tank that is partially funded by the U.S. government.

In his remarks, Roy called for the U.S. to respect the Chinese Communist Party’s “One China” policy, which holds that Taiwan is a part of China and not an independent nation. Taiwan has vociferously opposed this policy and rejected Chinese rule.

Roy also told students that China’s repression of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang Province does not constitute a genocide.

“Let’s be careful with our language. Genocide is generally used to refer to the extermination of a people or nation. Genocide is not taking place in Xinjiang,” Roy said during a question-and-answer session. “More accurately, there is what can be called ‘cultural genocide.’”

China has come under criticism from U.S. officials following revelations of mass forced sterilization of Uyghur women, as well as the interment of over one million Uyghurs in camps where detainees are forced to learn Communist Party ideology. Reports of torture, rape, and other abuses have emerged from these camps, and the Trump administration is attempting to halt imports of cotton and other goods from the region that could be made with forced Uyghur labor.

Additionally, Roy implied that protests against the Chinese regime have had counterproductive effects. Residents of Hong Kong conducted pro-democracy protests beginning in March 2019 against encroachment of Chinese rule in the territory.

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“We have seen in Hong Kong what can happen when demonstrators for a just cause go too far, and precipitate a counter-action that sets back the just cause for years or decades,” Roy said. Roy cited the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations as another protest that “set back the cause of reform in China for decades.”

National Review has reached out to Roy for comment.

Another former U.S. ambassador to China, Max Baucus, has compared President Trump to Adolf Hitler on Chinese state television. Baucus was appointed by President Obama in 2014 and served until Trump came into office in 2017.

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