The White House was criticized on Monday for its reaction to the protesters in China calling for “freedom” and for President Xi Jinping to step down.
NSC Strategic Communication Coordinator John Kirby told reporters Monday that President Biden was “not going to speak for protesters” in response to a question about the president’s reaction to protesters in China chanting “freedom.”
The reporter followed up and said, “so there’s no reaction?”
“These protesters are speaking for themselves,” Kirby added.
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Gov. Asa Hutchinson, R-AR., said Biden should “always speak in support of freedom.”
“America does support the protesters,” he said in response to a clip of the press briefing posted by The Washington Free Beacon.
Contributing Editor for The Spectator Stephen L. Miller said the response was “cowardice.”
Protests have erupted across China in response to the country’s zero-COVID policies. Protesters have clashed with police in multiple parts of the country.
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Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-TX., called out the administration as well.
“Why is it so hard for this administration to support freedom? Pure cowardice,” he posted on Twitter.
The National Review’s Michael Brendan Dougherty also reacted to Kirby’s comments and said the White House had the “correct stance.”
“And if the president is ever going to comment on it, it should not be through a press secretary,” he said in a follow-up tweet.
“In this case ‘speaking for themselves’ requires risking great physical danger for themselves and their families,” the Hudson Institute’s Rebeecah Heinrichs said.
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 for Media and Public Relations John Cooper reacted to Kirby’s answer and said he didn’t say that the policy was “absurd, or that China is violating basic human rights.”
“Just bland nothingness,” he said.
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Protesters gathered in Shanghai to mourn the victims of a deadly building fire in Urumqi. The building had been on partial lockdown as part of the country’s zero-COVID policies for almost two months.
The crowd in Shanghai was heard chanting “apologize,” directed at the Chinese government and “Xi Jinping, step down.”
They were also heard chanting “Communist Party, step down.”