Billionaire's Uighur Remarks Do Not Go Over Well

Chamath Palihapitiya walks back 'don't care' comments made on his podcast
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 18, 2022 1:27 PM CST
Billionaire Investor on Uighur Genocide: 'Don't Care'
Student activists, alleging human rights violations against Muslim Uighurs, shout slogans during a rally to protest the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games, outside the Chinese Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Friday.   (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)

(Newser) – While discussing concerns over China's treatment of Uighurs, billionaire investor Chamath Palihapitiya didn't even feign interest. "The rest of us don't care," he said on Saturday's episode of his podcast, per CNBC. Palihapitiya said he had more important things to worry about than reports of mass detention, forced labor, and mass sterilization of the ethnic Muslim minority in China's northwest Xinjiang region, which the Biden administration calls a genocide. "Let's be honest, nobody, nobody cares about what's happening to the Uighurs, OK?" he told All-In co-host Jason Calacanis, who had commended President Biden for taking steps to address China's assimilation campaign.

Born in Sri Lanka, Palihapitiya emigrated to Canada before moving to the US and joining AOL and Facebook, which he left in 2011, per the Wall Street Journal. He went on to found venture capital firm Social Capital Holdings Inc., whose mission "is to advance humanity by solving the world's hardest problems," according to its website. Palihapitiya, who also owns a 10% stake in the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, told Calacanis that he was more concerned with supply chain issues, climate change, America’s health-care system, and the threat of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan than the treatment of China's Uighurs (also spelled Uyghurs). "I'm telling you a very hard, ugly truth. Of all of the things that I care about, yes, it is below my line," he said.

The Warriors claimed no part in the comments, per the Journal, while Enes Kanter Freedom of the Boston Celtics—who has been openly critical of China's practices and led a rally in support of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act in Washington, DC, in October—claimed Palihapitiya was among "those who sell their soul for money & business." The billionaire then put out a statement Monday stating that he did in fact care about human rights issues anywhere in the world, as "my family fled a country with its own set." "I recognize that I come across as lacking empathy [in the podcast]. I acknowledge that entirely," he added. He did not apologize. (Tesla has been accused of economic support for the genocide.)

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