Virgin Galactic Chairman Says Nobody Cares About Genocide of Uyghurs in China

Virgin Galactic Chairman Says Nobody Cares About Genocide of Uyghurs in China
Chamath Palihapitiya, chairman of Virgin Galactic, on the Jan. 15, 2022 edition of his podcast, All In. (Screenshot: YouTube, Fair Use)

Chamath Palihapitiya, the chairman of Virgin Galactic and CEO of Social Capital, doesn’t care about the plight of Uyghurs — a Muslim-majority ethnic group that’s faced persecution by the Chinese government. Numerous reports out of China have documented how the Uyghurs have been subject to forced abortions, systematic rape, torture, and internment in concentration camps. But Palihapitiya says “nobody” cares about the Uyghurs, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Palihapitiya, who’s reportedly worth roughly $US1.2 ($2) billion and is a co-owner of the Warriors basketball team, made the comments Saturday on his podcast, titled All In, which he co-hosts with tech industry veteran Jason Calacanis.

“Nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs,” Palihapitiya said. “You bring it up because you really care, and I think it’s nice that you care. The rest of us don’t care.”

Palihapitiya, who has tried to brand himself as a socially conscious investor, went on during the show to double down on his assertion that nobody cares about the Uyghurs, positioning himself as some kind of brilliant truth-teller who’s just saying what everyone else is thinking.

“I’m just telling you a very hard, ugly truth. Of all the things that I care about, yes, it is below my line,” Palihapitiya said.

Palihapitiya received considerable blowback on social media after video of his comments went viral on Twitter, but the billionaire’s response was something very short of an apology.

Writing that, “Important issues deserve nuanced discussions,” Palihapitiya tweeted on Monday that he wanted to provide some, “clarifying comments.”

In re-listening to this week’s podcast, I recognise that I come across as lacking empathy. 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’s family left Sri Lanka and settled in Canada when he was five years old and he moved to the U.S. after college. But, again, his clarifying statement basically, “sorry if you got offended.”

The U.S. government has sanctioned many Chinese companies with ties to Xinjiang over human rights abuses, including drone maker DJI, which has been added to several blacklists over its alleged involvement in surveillance of Uyghurs.

The Warriors released a statement on Monday distancing themselves from Palihapitiya and his callousness.

“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 organisation,” the NBA team’s PR division said in a tweet.

Virgin Galactic did not release a statement about Palihapitiya’s comments and did not respond to a request for comment early Tuesday. While Palihapitiya is still the chairman of the company, he actually sold his entire personal stake in the company in March of last year, totaling roughly $US211 ($293) million in stock. The billionaire said it was for liquidity reasons.

Virgin Galactic’s stock is down roughly 68% since this time last year, though there have been no allegations of insider trading or claims that Palihapitiya did anything improper. We’re sure he’s just a wise investor who plays by the rules.