Tensions rise as US, China discuss COVID-19 origin, human rights violations

Tensions rise as US, China discuss COVID-19 origin, human rights violations
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Chinese and U.S. diplomats on Friday had a heated phone call in which they discussed recent issues that have stoked the most division between the countries. 

“Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke by phone with Chinese Communist Party Politburo Member and Director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission Yang Jiechi today,” the State Department said.

The most intense exchanges came when Blinken and Yang discussed the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, democracy in Hong Kong, China's detention camps for Ugyher Muslims, and Taiwan.

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Blinken “stressed the importance of cooperation and transparency regarding the origin of the virus, including the need for WHO Phase 2 expert-led studies in China,” according to the State Department.

Meanwhile, Yang decried the recent interest in the U.S. over the origins of the virus as many are now saying the pandemic began as a lab leak in Wuhan, China, a theory he called "absurd."

“Some people in the United States have fabricated and peddled absurd stories claiming Wuhan lab leak, which China is gravely concerned about,” Yang said, China’s state media outlet Xinhua reported, according to The Associated Press. “China urges the United States to respect facts and science, refrain from politicizing COVID-19 origin tracing and concentrate on international anti-pandemic cooperation.”

During the call, Blinken condemned China’s move in Hong Kong to tear apart “democratic norms,” as well as “the ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity against predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang.”

He also pressed China to “peacefully resolve cross-Strait issues” with Taiwan, a Democratic island China claims control over.

Hong Kong affairs are purely China’s internal affairs,” Yang told Blinken. As for Taiwan, China “firmly defends its national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

The pair also discussed the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, a DPRK policy review and “several cases of U.S. and Canadian citizens subject to arbitrary detention and exit bans in China.”