The Biden administration supports zero-COVID protesters in China, and the topic will be addressed in meetings in Beijing next month, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday.
"We support the right for people everywhere, whether it’s in China, whether it’s Iran, whether it’s any place else, to protest peacefully, to make known their views, to vent their frustrations," Blinken said in an interview on CNN's "State of the Union."
"We will say what we always say and what President (Joe) Biden has said to (Chinese leader) Xi Jinping, which is that human rights and basic civil liberties go to the heart of who we are as Americans. And no American government, no American president is going to be silent on that," he added.
The administration came under fire from critics last week who said NSC Strategic Communication Coordinator John Kirby was tepid in a response to reporters when he told them that Biden was "not going to speak for protesters" who are demanding freedom from the country's zero-COVID policies, but that the White House does support the right of anyone to "peacefully protest."
Also on Sunday, Blinken spoke out on CBS's "Face the Nation" about the demonstrations that have been hitting Iran for several months after the death of Kurdish-Iranian woman Mahsa Amini, 22, who died in September after the country's morality police detained her.
Iran has made a move to abolish its morality police, but Blinken would not say if the United States thinks that will end protesters.
“That’s up to the Iranian people. This is about that. It’s not about us," Blinken said. "What we’ve seen since the killing of Mahsa Amini has been the extraordinary courage of Iranian young people, especially women, who’ve been leading these protests, standing up for the right to be able to say what they want to say, wear what they want to wear."
Sanctions have been enforced in Iran against those who orchestrated a crackdown on protesters, said Blinken on CNN, but he didn't mention if China had faced any punishment.
Further, the protests are not about the United States, he said.
"This is about people in both countries trying to express their views, trying to have their aspirations met, and the response that the governments are taking to that,” he said.
Meanwhile, on CBS, Blinken addressed a statement from his deputy, Wendy Sherman, who said Friday in a speech that she thinks war with China is "potentially possible" with Xi gaining "absolute control."
"We're in an intense competition with China. And of course, there's nothing wrong with competition itself, as long as it's basically fair, and on a level playing field," Blinken said.
"The president has a strong determination to ensure that the competition does not veer into conflict," he added. "That's one of the reasons that he spent three hours with Xi Jinping in Indonesia, on the margins of the G-20. It's one of the reasons that he asked me to go to China early next year, making sure that we're talking, we're communicating, we're making clear what we're about what our intents are, and what we're doing."
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