KEY POINTS

  • Chamath Palihapitiya is a venture capitalist and co-owner of NBA team Golden State Warriors
  • Palihapitiya later retracted the statement and said it "came across as lacking empathy"
  • Golden State Warriors said Palihapitiya "does not speak on behalf of our franchise"

A billionaire venture capitalist who is also a major Democratic donor has shocked many by saying "nobody cares" about the Uyghurs, an ethnic Muslim minority in China's northwest region of Xinjiang against whom Beijing is accused of carrying out a genocidal campaign.  

American billionaire Chamath Palihapitiya made the remarks about the ongoing human rights abuses in a recent episode of his podcast. Just last month, President Joe Biden signed a law banning imports from the Xinjiang region, which is a major producer of cotton and solar panels, over concerns about forced labor. China has denied the accusations.

Nearly 15-minutes into their "All-In" podcast, co-host Jason Calacanis praised Biden’s China policy, saying the president came out with a "strong" statement on the Uyghurs.

To this, Palihapitiya replied, "nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs." 

"Let’s be honest, nobody, nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs, okay? You bring it up because you really care. And I think that’s really nice that you care but ..."

Calacanis responded by asking Palihapitiya if he "personally doesn’t care." Palihapitiya then replied: "I’m telling you a very hard ugly truth, OK? Of all the things I care about, yes, it is below my line."

Calacanis said his comments were "disappointing," but Palihapitiya went on to say that he cared about "supply chain issues, climate change, America’s crippled health-care system as well as the potential economic fallout of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan." 

Palihapitiya's comments irked many, including NBA player Enes Kanter Freedom of Boston Celtics, who lashed out that "When genocides happen, it is people like this that let it happen."

Golden State Warriors, the NBA team co-owned by the investor, too came out with a statement that read Palihapitiya "does not speak on behalf of our franchise, and his views certainly don’t reflect those of our organization." The Golden State Warriors’ statement, however, did not mention the Uyghurs or China. 

Palihapitiya quickly backtracked from his earlier remarks in a statement posted on Twitter. 

"In re-listening to this week's podcast, I recognize that I came across as lacking empathy," Palihapitiya wrote. "I acknowledge that entirely. 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."

Palihapitiya, a Sri Lankan-born Canadian and American, had briefly floated a run for governor of California last year after he endorsed the recall of Governor Gavin Newsom. However, he later said, "he was not ready to do any of that." Palihapitiya is also a major donor to Democratic candidates over the years. 

The Biden administration had warned businesses with supply chain and investment ties to China’s Xinjiang province that they could face legal consequences. 

The U.S. also announced a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, citing "ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses."

Members of the Uyghur community rally against the Chinese government at the State Department on September 15, 2021 in Washington, DC Members of the Uyghur community rally against the Chinese government at the State Department on September 15, 2021 in Washington, DC Photo: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Kevin Dietsch