On Wednesday, the National Security Counsel Coordinator for Strategic Communications, John Kirby, appeared on Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends” to answer the question of whether or not the White House supports the Chinese protestors calling for Xi Jinping to step down and the White House’s stance on Covid restrictions. Kirby took President Biden’s lead in his initial response and skirted the issue stating only that the White House is “on the side of peaceful protest” and was not “taking a side in terms of what these protests are about.”
Kirby went on to make it clear that he was frustrated with the criticism the Biden administration has faced regarding its response to the Chinese protests saying, “I would not say at all that we would agree with the criticism that we’ve been less than firm or consistent. In fact, Brian, we’ve been very consistent about the right of peaceful protest, and we’ve been very vocal about it in China just over the last few days. We believe that these individuals should be able to peacefully protest and assemble and to make their minds known to their government there in China, just like we’ve said the same in Iran and around the world. And we stand up for peaceful protest, and again, we’ve been very consistent about that.”
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When asked specifically which side of the protests the White House supports, either removing Xi Jinping from power or ending his zero-Covid policy, Kirby refused to choose a side and responded by saying, “We’re on the side of the peaceful protest. We’re on the side of individuals being able to freely assemble and to express their views, whatever those views are. We’re not taking a side in terms of what these protestors are about. Largely though, Steve, you know that these protestors are really out there about the lockdown. Their main concern, what drove them to the streets, was the very severe, very stringent COVID policies by Xi’s administration, and that’s what’s really been driving all this public protest.”
Kirby also used the excuse of not wanting to put words in the mouths of protestors to justify the administration’s refusal to support the demonstrators’ cause and not just their right to peaceful protest. With respect to ending Xi’s zero-Covid policy, Kirby said, “we don’t believe, here in the United States, that lockdowns are the answer.”
Multiple protests and demonstrations have broken out across China this week after a fire in a locked-down building killed at least 10 people and caused outrage at Xi Jinping’s zero-Covid policy. As protestors call for Xi to resign, the Chinese leader sent tanks to the eastern city of Xuzhou overnight Tuesday in a scene that was eerily reminiscent of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protest and massacre. The Biden administration has taken criticism for not supporting the protestors or their cause.