President Donald Trump has signed a bill that aims to punish China for its human rights abuses against the Uighur Muslim population on the same day his former national security adviser claimed Trump told Chinese President Xi Jinping he should proceed in building detainment camps for the group.
A White House spokesman said Trump signed the Uighur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020 on Wednesday.
In an excerpt of his forthcoming book published by The Wall Street Journal, John Bolton wrote Trump discussed the detention camps built by the Chinese government for Uighurs in western China during a dinner at the G20 last year.
"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," Bolton writes. "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 US State Department estimates that more than one million Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and members of other Muslim minority groups have been detained by the Chinese government in internment camps, where they are reportedly "subjected to torture, cruel and inhumane treatment such as physical and sexual abuse, forced labor and death."
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called Beijing's actions in Xinjiang "the stain of the century."
The Uighur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020 passed overwhelmingly in the House and Senate. The legislation condemns the Chinese Communist Party for the detention centers and recommends a tougher response to the human rights abuses suffered by Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities in the region.
Under the legislation, the President would have 180 days to submit a report to Congress identifying Chinese officials and any other individuals who are responsible for carrying out torture; prolonged detention without charges and a trial; abduction; cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment of Muslim minority groups; and other flagrant denials of the "right to life, liberty, or the security" of people in Xinjiang.
The individuals identified in the report would then be subject to sanctions, including asset blocking, visa revocation, and ineligibility for entry into the United States. The legislation gives Trump room to opt against imposing sanctions on the officials if he determines and certifies to Congress that holding back on sanctions is in the national interest of the United States.