WASHINGTON - This was Biden’s first meeting with Uyghur American community representatives since becoming president, and it was not planned as anything more than quick handshakes, writes the Washington Post.

But when Ziba Murat started talking, Biden stopped his rounds and listened, Murat told me in an interview. Biden appeared visibly saddened when she told him about how Chinese authorities had arrested and disappeared her mother four years ago on spurious “terrorism” charges, five days after her mother’s sister had publicly criticized the Chinese government in Washington.

“I said, ‘I’m an American citizen, and my mother is in a concentration camp,' ” Murat said." And he stopped. And he looked at me, and I could see him getting emotional. And then he said, ‘Can I give you a hug?’ ” Uyghur American lawyer Nury Turkel told me that Biden then patiently listened to his own story. Turkel was born in a Xinjiang reeducation camp during Mao’s cultural revolution and went on to become an American citizen and a U.S. government official serving on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a journey chronicled in his memoir, “No Escape: The True Story of China’s Genocide of the Uyghurs.”

Beijing has been retaliating against Turkel’s family because of his human rights advocacy in the United States. China won’t let his mother leave the country; he hasn’t seen her since 2004. His father died last month, before they could be reunited. Adding insult to injury, Beijing sanctioned Turkel and other members of the commission last year.

“I was moved and impressed by his empathy. ... I sensed the humanity of the man,” Turkel said of Biden. “Much like Putin’s Russia, regimes like the one in Beijing like to silence vocal critics through intimidation and abuse of their loved ones.” Biden’s empathy and sensitivity are a welcome contrast to the demeanor of his predecessor, who reportedly told Chinese President Xi Jinping that his mass internment of Uyghur Muslims was “exactly the right thing to do.” But empathy goes only so far.

The Biden administration must do more to address the problem of Americans targeted by Beijing’s long arm of transnational repression.