President Trump signed legislation on Wednesday to potentially sanction China over human rights abuses regarding its internment of ethnic Uighurs.
Trump signed the bill after former national security adviser John Bolton claimed that the president encouraged Chinese President Xi Jinping to expand the internment camps during bilateral trade negotiations in June 2019. Trump has denied the accusation made in Bolton’s upcoming memoir, “The Room Where It Happened.”
“[Bolton] is a liar,” Mr. Trump told The Wall Street Journal when asked about the Uighurs, a Turkish minority group in China.
The Wall Street Journal had published an excerpt on Bolton’s book on Wednesday afternoon that contained the accusation against Trump:
At the opening dinner of the Osaka G-20 meeting in June 2019, with only interpreters present, Xi had explained to Trump why he was basically building concentration camps in Xinjiang. According to our interpreter, Trump said that Xi should go ahead with building the camps, which Trump thought was exactly the right thing to do. The National Security Council’s top Asia staffer, Matthew Pottinger, told me that Trump said something very similar during his November 2017 trip to China.
The Uighur Human Rights Policy Act passed both chambers of Congress unanimously and urges the Trump administration to aggressively push China to close so-called “reeducation” camps and, instead, to provide robust and equal protection of civil rights to the Uighur people. Beijing slammed Trump on Thursday and promised retaliation for signing the bill, according to NBC News.
“We again urge the U.S. side to immediately correct its mistakes and stop using this Xinjiang-related law to harm China’s interests and interfere in China’s internal affairs,” China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Xinjiang is the region of China where many Uighurs live and more than 1 million are held in camps.
“Otherwise, China will resolutely take countermeasures, and all the consequences arising therefrom must be fully borne by the United States,” the statement continued.
China is systemically oppressing Uighurs living in Xinjiang, arresting them, and reportedly placing them in forced-labor camps that often resemble high-security prisons. Many Uighurs reportedly die in the camps from abuse and lack of medical care. The Chinese government has denied accusations concerning the camps, instead claiming that the camps are part of an education program. Accurate information is notoriously hard to get on the camps because of China’s tight controls.
U.S.-China relations were already strained over an ongoing trade war and the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan. The Trump administration has accused the Chinese government of hiding and lying about aspects of the disease in the early weeks of the outbreak, hampering the international response to the virus. The Chinese Communist Party has spread conspiracy theories about the disease’s origin, even suggesting that the U.S. military created the coronavirus and released it in Wuhan.
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