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Xi Jinping whitewashes China's record of human rights abuses in speech at site of Tiananmen Square massacre

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Chinese leader Xi Jinping delivering a speech in Tiananmen Square.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping warned other countries against attempting to bully China during a chest-thumping speech. Li Xueren/Getty Images
  • Xi Jinping delivered a chest-thumping speech warning other countries against bullying China.

  • The speech marked the 100th anniversary of the founding of China's Communist Party.

  • Xi said China has never oppressed other countries, while ignoring human rights abuses at home.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

In an incendiary speech marking the 100th anniversary of the founding of China's Communist Party, Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Thursday portrayed China as an innocent player on the global stage while issuing a grave warning against bullying his country.

"The Chinese people will never allow foreign forces to bully, oppress or enslave us," he said. "Whoever nurses delusions of doing that will crack their heads and spill blood on a Great Wall of steel built from the flesh and blood of 1.4 billion Chinese."

"We will not accept sanctimonious preaching from those who feel they have the right to lecture us," Xi said. "We have never bullied, oppressed, or subjugated the people of any other country, and we never will."

Xi, an authoritarian with a long record of human rights abuses, said this without a hint of irony while speaking from Tiananmen Square - where Chinese troops in 1989 killed hundreds, possibly thousands, after opening fire on unarmed pro-democracy and pro-reform demonstrators.

The Chinese leader's remarks effectively whitewashed China's ongoing human rights abuses within the country's borders. China has continued to crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, while committing what is widely considered genocide against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, in a Thursday tweet said: "In his speech for the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping warns that China will not be 'oppressed.' Sadly, under his rule, the people of China will be oppressed."

It's true that under communist leadership China has not engaged in the same type of blatant interventionism as many Western countries, but Xi's comments also painted a misleading picture of China's role in the world.

China has rapidly expanded its global influence in recent years, bolstering its military and technological capacities while becoming more intertwined in the economies of countries worldwide. In the process, US-China relations have quickly deteriorated over the past few years as they've butted heads on everything from trade and the COVID-19 pandemic to Taiwan and the South China Sea.

President Joe Biden has warned that the the US and China are in a competition to "win the 21st century." The Biden administration has confronted China on a range of issues, and slapped sanctions on Chinese officials over human rights abuses, among other moves. There are also bipartisan efforts in Congress aimed at seeing the US challenge China more aggressively, particularly in terms of investments in research and development.

As the competition ramps up and both countries engage in chest-thumping from across the globe, Xi and his government have accused the US of employing a Cold War mentality.

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