The White House came under fire on Monday for its response to protesters in China calling for “freedom” and the resignation of President Xi Jinping.
NSC strategic communications coordinator John Kirby told reporters Monday that President Biden “would not speak for the protesters” in response to a question about the president’s reaction to protesters in China chanting “freedom.”
The reporter followed and said, “so there’s no reaction?”
“These protesters are speaking for themselves,” added Kirby.
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Governor Asa Hutchinson, R-AR., said Biden should “always speak in support of freedom”.
“America stands with the protesters,” he said in response to a clip of the press conference published by The Washington Free Beacon.
Contributing editor of The Spectator Stephen L. Miller said the response was “cowardice”.
Protests have erupted across China in response to the country’s COVID-zero policies. Protesters clashed with police in various parts of the country.
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Representative Dan Crenshaw, R-TX., also called the government.
“Why is it so hard for this government to support freedom? Pure cowardice,” he tweeted.
Michael Brendan Dougherty of the National Review also reacted to Kirby’s comments and said that the White House had the “right stance”.
“And if the president is going to comment on this, it shouldn’t be through a press secretary,” he said in a follow-up tweet.
“In this case, ‘speaking up for themselves’ requires risking great physical danger to themselves and their families,” said Rebeecah Heinrichs of the Hudson Institute.
Kirby, who was also asked about China’s “zero COVID” policy, responded that the White House supports the right to “peacefully protest”.
The Heritage Foundation’s director of media and public affairs John Cooper reacted to Kirby’s response and said he did not say the policy was “absurd or that China is violating basic human rights”.
“Just a dull nothing,” he said.
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Protesters gathered in Shanghai to mourn the victims of a deadly fire in Urumqi. The building had been in partial lockdown as part of the country’s zero COVID policies for nearly two months.
Crowds in Shanghai were heard chanting “I’m sorry”, directed at the Chinese government, and “Xi Jinping, resign”.
They were also heard chanting “Communist Party, resign”.