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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Jade Bremner

Silicon Valley billionaire Chamath Palihapitiya condemned for Uyghur comments

All In/ YouTube

The founder and CEO of Social Capital, which aims to "advance humanity by solving the world’s hardest problems," has come under fire for saying "nobody cares about what's happening to the Uyghurs".

Venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya, 45, a former senior executive of Facebook who is worth $1.2bn, made the comment while speaking on the All-In technology podcast. Mr Palihapitiya is also a minority owner in the NBA team the Golden State Warriors.

Human Rights Watch has said that "the Chinese government has committed – and continues to commit – crimes against humanity against the Turkic Muslim population.” In a recent report, the organisation outlined instances of violations of international law, including imprisonment, enforced disappearance, torture, murder, plus forced labour and sexual violence.

"What? What do you mean nobody cares?" said the podcast's co-host Jason Calacanis.

Mr Palihapitiya doubled down on his comments when asked about them. "Of all the things I care about it is below my line," he said.

"You bring it up because you really care, and I think that's nice that you care, the rest of us don't care," he told Mr Calacanis.

"I care about the fact that our economy could turn on a dime if China invades Taiwan. I care about climate change. I care about America's decrepit healthcare infrastructure, but if you're asking me if I care about a segment of a class of people in another country, not until we can take care of ourselves will I prioritise them.

"I think a lot of people believe that and I'm sorry if that's a hard truth to hear but every time I say that I'm caring about the Uyghurs I'm really just lying if I don't really care, so I'd rather not lie to you and tell you the truth. It's not a priority for me."

The Sri Lanka-born billionaire, whose family fled to the US after human rights issues, continued to say that we are "virtue signalling" if we don't sort out problems at home first.

"Until we actually clean up our own house, the idea that we step outside of our borders with us sort of like morally virtue signalling about somebody else's human rights track record is deplorable," he said.

"Human rights in the US is way more important to me than human rights anywhere else on the globe," said Palihapitiya.

His comments were heavily criticised by podcast listeners and social media users: "Don't forget there are some who sell their soul for money," said one Twitter user.

"I am Uyghur myself. Chinese government sentenced my mom to 10 years, my two brothers Adil and Tursun to 10-15 years in prison and they forced my wife to divorce me and I can’t speak to my 10-year-old daughter," wrote another user.

Chamath Palihapitiya later tweeted that after re-listening to this week's podcast: "I recognise that I come across as lacking empathy. I acknowledge that entirely," he wrote. "To be clear, my belief is that human rights matter, whether in China, the United States, or elsewhere. Full stop.

The Independent has contacted Chamath Palihapitiya for further comment.

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