The NBA’s Golden State Warriors basketball franchise is trying to distance itself from billionaire co-owner Chamath Palihapitiya following a remark he made on his podcast that “nobody cares” about the Uyghur Muslims facing persecution in China.
“Nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs, OK? You bring it up because you really care, and I think it’s nice that you care. The rest of us don’t care,” he said Saturday on “The All-In Podcast.”
In 2021, the U.S. government declared China’s persecution of the Uyghur people to be genocide.
Team management responded to Palihapitiya’s remark Monday, saying the investor “does not speak on behalf of our franchise.”
Amid criticism, Palihapitiya has backpedaled on his remarks, writing on Twitter: “I believe that human rights matter, whether in China, the United States, or elsewhere.”
Millions of Uyghurs have been forced “inside political reeducation camps in China,” says Olivia Enos, a senior policy analyst for Asian studies at The Heritage Foundation. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)
Enos joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to respond to Palihapitiya’s remark that “nobody cares” about the Uyghurs, and to explain why China is targeting the ethnic group.
We also cover these stories:
- White House press secretary Jen Psaki says Russia could attack Ukraine at any time.
- Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., releases a report highlighting the impact of mass inflation.
- A school district in Northern Virginia removes a controversial gender-identity book from its libraries.
Listen to the podcast below or ready the lightly edited transcript.
Virginia Allen: The Golden State Warriors are trying to distance themselves from co-owner Chamath Palihapitiya after he made a comment over the weekend that “nobody cares about the Uyghur Muslims in China who are being persecuted.” Take a listen, per Todd Starnes:
Allen: Joining me to give her thoughts on these comments and discuss why we all need to care about the Uyghurs is Heritage Foundation senior policy analyst for Asian studies Olivia Enos. Olivia, welcome back to the podcast.
Olivia Enos: Thank you so much for having me on.
Allen: So, Palihapitiya made these remarks on his podcast called “The All-In Podcast.” He’s one of four individuals that co-host this podcast together. What was your reaction, Olivia, when you heard his comments?
Enos: I mean, gut reaction: wow. This is really, really awful that he felt comfortable saying something so unbelievably brazen. I mean, he said the quiet part out loud. And by that, I mean, he said what no business person, no venture capitalist, no investor should ever be saying, which is that when money is on the line, human rights don’t matter.
And for him to say that so blatantly and then to take it a step further, he says, like, “This is below my line of what I care about.” So he’s saying, like, let’s just get this straight: Ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity is below the threshold of something he cares about.
Allen: And this is a billionaire speaking, a very influential individual.
Enos: Very influential. I mean, I think he runs a business called like “social investing” or something along these lines. It’s like focused on these types of things. And he’s saying that having over a million people inside political reeducation camps in China, that this is below his line, that he doesn’t care about Uyghur women and girls who are being forcibly sterilized and their families being pulled apart.
So I think it was really appalling to hear him say that. And he didn’t even just claim it was below his line. As you said, Virginia, he said, “No, nobody cares.”
Well, I would like to set him straight. There are plenty of people who care and not just Uyghur Americans or Uyghurs who are separated from family back home, but ordinary Americans who recognize that the Chinese Communist Party is absolutely repeating history in carrying out this genocide, these atrocities. And we’re not going to stand for these types of violations of freedom and human rights.
Allen: And Olivia, in your position at Heritage, you have done so much research on the Uyghurs. You know in-depth what so many of these individuals have and are facing. So break down a little bit more for us, for those that might not be too familiar with the Uyghurs and what they’re facing, who are they and what are they going through in China?
Enos: So, Uyghurs are a Muslim minority group within China. Most of them reside within Xinjiang and starting in around April 2017 or so, the international community was made aware of the Chinese Communist Party collectivizing Uyghurs inside what we now know are political reeducation camps. And it’s belief that there’s between 1.8 million to 3 million Uyghurs currently held in those camps today.
Many of them are subject to forced indoctrination. They are required to put the Chinese Communist Party first. That’s above their family. That’s above their faith and any other closely held beliefs that they might have. They’re also subject to forced labor.
We actually just saw Congress and the Biden administration instituting new legislation surrounding those issues. But we know that there are so many Uyghurs that are subject to a variety of human rights violations. And they really rose to this scale of the Trump administration on the last day in office saying, “You know what? We’ve got to call a spade a spade.” This is ongoing genocide in crimes against humanity and what it means to be committing genocide, just to put a fine point on it, is having the intent to destroy in whole or in part an entire people group.
And I think we see this most clearly in the way the Chinese Communist Party has a stated goal, according to Adrian Zenz of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, of forcibly sterilizing between 80% to 90% of Uyghur women of childbearing age.
Allen: So they’re open about that, they don’t hide that?
Enos: Yeah. I mean, this can be found in Chinese Communist Party documentation that they want to do that. And what that means is you’re either going to have a significantly smaller or ultimately nonexistent next generation of Uyghurs, if the Chinese Communist Party gets away with this and these are the types of abuses that Chamath is essentially trying to sweep under the rug and say that nobody cares about, and nobody should care about it. This cannot go unaddressed.
Allen: Yeah, yeah. Well, and Olivia, with those comments from Chamath that no one cares about the Uyghurs, I think there would be some people really on both sides of this issue who would say, “You know what? He does have a point there. Not enough people care about this. Not enough people are enraged.” Or [they] might go so far to even say, “No one does care,” because we’re not seeing maybe the response across America or the world that some people would like to say. Do you think that that’s true?
Enos: I think that we have seen increasing responses from the U.S. government, both under the Trump administration and under the Biden administration. But I think that there’s a lot more that can be done.
We’ve already seen, obviously, as I mentioned, the atrocity determination we saw under the Trump administration and continued under the Biden administration sanctions, including most recently multilateral sanctions that were undertaken by the U.S., the European Union, the United Kingdom, and Canada in order to hold individuals in China who are responsible for these atrocities accountable.
We also saw more recently the Biden administration at the 11th hour saying, “We’re going to undertake a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Olympics.” And I think the Olympics actually present a very fantastic opportunity for ordinary Americans to make their discontent with the Chinese Communist Party known.
We’re not obligated to watch the Olympics and to enable China to profit off of advertising. That will happen when NBC airs the Olympics. We are not obligated to purchase goods that we believe might have been produced with forced labor from China. We can choose not to purchase those goods.
And so I think that there are things that ordinary Americans can do beyond just raising awareness and making it so that no one, no American, no person around the globe can say, “We were unaware that genocide and crimes against humanity were happening.” So there’s a lot of responsibility both at the government level, but also at the personal and individual level to really hold China to account.
Allen: Yeah. So, on that personal level, I think it’s helpful to understand some of the relationships that China has with some of the organizations in America, institutions. So something like the Golden State Warriors, and we didn’t talk about Hollywood. So many different large American for-profit entities have some sort of connection, association from China or China is obviously a very large group of people so it’s a huge market to reach and address.
So what does a group like the Golden State Warriors or other large American companies, what does their soft approach toward China mean for China?
Enos: Well, I think, frankly speaking, the fact that the International Olympic Committee, who selected Beijing to host the Olympics, for example, in the first place, the fact that they faced very minimal pushback, honestly, I think emboldens people like Chamath to say the type of things that he’s saying.
But in contrast to that, we have seen some American institutions like the Women’s Tennis Association really responding with strength when there was that whole incident with Peng Shuai where she disappeared and people were saying, “Where is Peng Shuai?”
And the Women’s Tennis Association, they said, “We’re OK with losing Chinese business. We’re OK with that because we can’t have one of our athletes facing persecution in the way that Peng Shuai did.”
And so I think there are good and bad examples that other folks should look to. And hopefully folks like Chamath will think twice just seeing the amount of outrage I think from even ordinary Americans over his comments, that sporting industry, that other big multinational companies, they will face repercussions for being very just sort of laissez-faire or blasé about what’s happening to the Uyghurs.
Allen: Now, I know there’s been a lot of conversations about the Uyghurs in recent months, years in regards to Hollywood and Hollywood’s relationship to China. Can you parse that apart a little bit more for us? What do we know about the relationship between Hollywood and China and why has at times it seemed like Hollywood turned a blind eye to the persecution of the Uyghurs?
Enos: Yeah, I think “turning a blind eye” is the absolute right turn of phrase to use here. Obviously, Hollywood does profit financially from China and that financial profiting actually comes with strings attached.
Sometimes the Chinese Communist Party will even intervene on the inclusion of certain characters or the way that the light that China is put in in specific films or things along those lines. But one that received a lot of attention was the case of “Mulan” where they actually did a lot of filming in the Xinjiang region. And this came up like in the credits when you would watch “Mulan.”
I did not watch “Mulan” for this reason, but I know a lot of people also and again, this is a perfect example of how ordinary Americans can make a decision: “Nope, Hollywood’s not going to profit when they go ahead and film in a region where there’s 1.8 million to 3 million Uyghurs held in political reeducation camps.”
So I think we do see instances like that where it’s important for our ordinary Americans to make a decision that they’re not going to be lining the private coffers of the Chinese Communist Party. As we know, the linkages between the state and business are really pretty inextricable in the Chinese context.
Allen: Specifically why is China targeting the Uyghurs?
Enos: So, that’s a million-dollar question. When China thinks about its foreign policy, it has some core foreign policy goals. The first is to safeguard its own sovereignty. And the second is to maintain its own internal stability. According to China, the Uyghurs pose a threat to both.
At times, Uyghurs have suggested separating and having their own state, so that’s potentially threatening to sovereignty. And then there has been unrest within Xinjiang at various very discreet moments in time. And China has chosen to over-characterize that and falsely characterize that as terrorism and label the entire group in part and almost exclusively solely on the basis of them being Muslim as terrorists, which is really horrifying. And so they have used this in order to persecute Uyghurs in any way that they possibly can.
And I think that we actually see China taking many of the same plays out of its playbook that they would use against Chinese Christians, against the Falun Gong, against Tibetan Buddhists because they’re threatened when there is a higher authority that Chinese citizens recognize that is not the Chinese Communist Party. And so I think this is part of the reason why Uyghurs are being targeted so starkly.
There are many other reasons, too. One that I will mention briefly is that Xinjiang sits at the footsteps of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which is their big economic plan for investments. It’s a bit amorphous, but they see Xinjiang as this region of economic activity and they don’t want that to be threatened either. …
It’s absolutely horrifying what is happening to the Uyghurs, but that’s some of the background in context, historically speaking.
Allen: Are there any Uyghurs that have escaped those “reeducation camps” and come out to tell the story of what’s really going on there?
Enos: Yes. In fact, one of the most harrowing stories—it was first covered by the BBC—is of Tursunay Ziyawudun. She is a Uyghur woman who was held inside of the camps and she was subject to rape in various forms of sexual violence. When she quoted to the BBC what happened to her, she actually said the entire system is designed to destroy your spirit. And she lived to tell her tale. She has been sharing it very widely with media.
I think there’s some very recent reporting from Reason that spotlights her story and I would commend that to everyone. But there are many Uyghurs that have survived to tell their stories.
And I think the evidence beyond having satellite imagery, incredible reporting from BuzzFeed looking at the number of camps, I think there are roughly 260 documented through satellite imagery and the firsthand testimonies. And of course, Uyghur Americans and Uyghurs of all stripes all around the globe who can testify to the fact that family members have been missing for years. So it is truly undeniable and what’s happening there is incredibly harrowing.
Allen: Yeah. Well, you mentioned that America is doing a diplomatic boycott of the Olympics in Beijing, which simply means we’re not sending any sort of official political representation. But as far as the stance that the U.S. government is taking right now, is it strong enough? Are we doing enough, Olivia?
Enos: Well, what I recommended from the start was that it would’ve been better for the U.S. in concert with actors all around the globe to pressure the International Olympic Committee to postpone the games for the purposes of selecting a new rights-respecting host. And obviously, that didn’t happen. So we had an 11th-hour action from the Biden administration taking up what we considered to be a second-best option, which is a diplomatic boycott.
It is important because it does send a message that American officials are not going to be granting undue credence to Beijing’s selection as hosts, but it still permits American athletes to participate, which I think is very important.
All that to say is that the Biden administration really waited a long time. They kicked the can down the road. And I think we could have had a postponing and moving of the games, but obviously, here we are a mere less than a month now out from the games. And I think the response has been somewhat weak.
Beyond this, I think there are other areas that the Biden administration has really overlooked. America has long been a place where people who are persecuted can come to find safe haven and the Biden administration has yet to extend priority to refugee status to Uyghurs and to Hong Kongers who have seen their livelihoods turned upside down by the Chinese Communist Party. And I think that the Biden administration has been somewhat reticent to institute additional financial measures against the Chinese Communist Party for the atrocities that they are carrying out. So I’d like to see more of that.
Allen: Yeah. Why do you think that is? Why do you think that there’s a hesitancy to really go all-in and put full pressure on China?
Enos: I don’t know. I think that there are different factions within the Biden administration who have different priorities. I mean, we’ve certainly seen this even in some of the opposition to the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act that I mentioned before.
It’s excellent that it was passed and now is being implemented. This is going to significantly strengthen the tools that we have to tackle forced labor from China. But those who were in favor of sort of cooperating with China over climate change were not quiet at all about their opposition to this type of move.
And so I think that having those competing actions, those who would value cooperation with China versus those who are strong on human rights issues have often come into conflict. And I really think this has muddled the strategy.
So I think what I’ll be looking for in 2022 is, one, a clarification of U.S. strategy toward China, especially vis-à-vis the human rights issues. But two, just whether or not there’s a full promoted commitment to ensuring that people whose rights are being violated, whose rights are not being protected and safeguarded, as is a government’s first-order duty to do it, I think the U.S. government really does have a responsibility to step in there to make sure that those people’s rights are respected. And we are not seeing that with the greatest strength that we possibly could right now.
Allen: Olivia, tell us how we can follow your work because I know you’re going to be writing on this issue. You’re not going to stop talking about it. How can we keep up with your reporting?
Enos: Absolutely. Well, you can always check out my reports at heritage.org and I also have a regular contributor status with Forbes, so you can check out my op-eds there. And as always, I am on Twitter, @OliviaEnos. So I look forward to engaging further with you-all there.
Allen: Great. Olivia, thank you so much for your time.
Enos: Thank you so much.
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