Chamath Palihapitiya, a 45-year-old billionaire venture capitalist who owns a stake in the Golden State Warriors, is under fire for dismissing China’s ongoing genocide of the Uyghurs as “below” him on a recent episode of his podcast.
“Nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs, OK,” Palihapitiya said in an episode of the podcast published Saturday.
“You bring it up because you really care, and I think it’s nice that you really care; the rest of us don’t care,” he told his co-hosts on “All-In” as they tried to clarify what he actually meant. “I’m just telling you a very hard, ugly truth. Of all the things I care about, yes, it’s below my line.”
Palihapitiya later said that concern about human rights abuses in other countries is “a luxury belief” and that Americans should withhold their opinions “until we actually clean up our own house.”
The comments came amid discussion of the Biden administration’s approach to China, specifically China’s treatment of the Uyghurs, an ethnic Muslim minority in the autonomous region of Xinjiang being “detained” in government camps by the millions.
In July, President Joe Biden warned that U.S. businesses with investment ties to the region could face legal consequences, citing the “widespread, state-sponsored forced labor” and “mass detention” of Uyghurs.
The Chinese government claims the camps, whose existence it once denied, are centers for education and job training.
As backlash to Palihapitiya’s comments grew, the Golden State Warriors released a statement distancing the team from him and downplaying his involvement.
“As a limited investor who has no day-to-day operating functions with the Warriors, Mr. Palihapitiya does not speak on behalf of our franchise, and his views certainly don’t reflect those of our organization,” the team tweeted.
After the Warriors statement, Palihapitiya published “clarifying” comments of his own.
“In re-listening to this week’s podcast, I recognize that I come across as lacking empathy. I acknowledge that entirely,” he wrote in a statement. “As a refugee, my family fled a country with its own set of human rights issues so this is something that is very much a part of my lived experience. To be clear, my belief is that human rights matter, whether in China, the United States, or elsewhere. Full stop.”
The remarks did little to pacify Salih Hudayar, a Uyghur refugee living in Washington, D.C., and the founder of the East Turkistan National Awakening Movement, which seeks independence for East Turkistan from China.
“Hell is not hot enough for Chamath Palihapitiya,” he said in an emailed statement, noting that Uyghurs in China face government-sanctioned “rape, enforced sterilization, torture, imprisonment, persecution, deportation and enforced disappearance to wipe them out.”
“Why is it that discussions of China’s human-rights abuses tend to bring out the ‘clean up our own house first’ rhetoric from wealthy businessmen?” he asked.