Amid talks between the United States and China aimed at easing bilateral tensions on Wednesday, US President Donald Trump officially signed legislation that authorizes sanctions against those responsible for the detainment of Uighur (also spelled Uyghur) Muslims in China.
The Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act would allow the US to impose sanctions against those responsible for the repression of Uighur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region on Wednesday.
The sanctions would allow any assets that the relevant Chinese officials may have in the US to be frozen as well as impose strict travel restrictions on these individuals.
Soon after the bill was enacted, China’s Foreign Ministry responded calling it a “malicious attack” on the Chinese government’s policy in Xinjiang. The ministry again reiterated that the US was intervening in its internal affairs and vowed to launch countermeasures if the US continued to do so.
A separate statement from the Communist Party Standing Committee in Xinjiang, called the legislation “a scrap of paper that will be swept into the garbage dump by the force of justice.”
Trump attempted to temper the reaction by saying that he regarded the bill’s sanction requirements as advisory but not mandatory.
Separately, on June 17, ministers of the G-7 country alliance, which includes US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, issued a statement calling on China not to follow through with the Hong Kong National Security Legislation.
They stated that the security law – which would criminalize acts and activities related to secession, subversion of state power, terrorism and collusion with foreign and external forces – would “curtail and threaten the fundamental rights and freedoms” of the Hong Kong people.
However, while Trump and his administration have maintained strong rhetoric against China, even joining other economies in an attempt to counter the Asian power’s growing global influence, contradicting information has recently been published suggesting ulterior motives from Trump.
In his tell-all book scheduled for publication next Tuesday, Bolton said that Trump “pleaded with Xi to ensure he’d win.”
“He stressed the importance of farmers and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome,” wrote Bolton.
Bolton also added that Trump was aware of Xi’s construction of the Uighur reeducation camps and supported his decision.
“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,” Bolton wrote.
Trump strongly refuted Bolton’s claims, labeling his book as “exceedingly tedious” and calling him “a liar” in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. He also tweeted that his book was full of “lies and fake stories.”
This comes amid talks held in Hawaii between top Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi and Pompeo over concerns over worsening bilateral ties.
Denny Roy, senior fellow at the Hawaii based East-West Centre, said the US State Department’s statements about the Hawaii talks were “extremely brief,” possibly reflecting awareness of the recent revelations about Trump’s previous dealings with Chinese President Xi Jinping by John Bolton.
“Perhaps the White House’s thinking is to downplay the [Hawaii] meeting as much as possible, even make Americans forget about it, rather than have them interpret the results through the lens suggested by Bolton,” Roy said.
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