Trump says he held off on sanctions over Xinjiang camps because of ongoing China trade talks

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President Trump said Friday that he held off on imposing sanctions against China over Beijing’s detention of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province due to ongoing U.S.-China trade negotiations.

During an interview with Axios, the president was asked why his administration declined to impose sanctions over the issue prior to his decision in recent days to sign a bill imposing sanctions on several Chinese officials and calling on the State Department to file a report on Chinese suppression of its Uighur Muslim minority.

“Well, we were in the middle of a major trade deal,” the president told the news outlet.

“And when you’re in the middle of a negotiation and then all of a sudden you start throwing additional sanctions on — we’ve done a lot,” he added, according to Axios. “I put tariffs on China, which are far worse than any sanction you can think of.”

Trump also said during the interview that no lawmakers had pressured him to impose sanctions against China under previously passed authority granted to him by the Global Magnitsky Act of 2016, a law allowing the U.S. administration to impose sanctions on individuals it sees as human rights violators.

“If somebody asked me, I would take a look at it,” he told Axios. “But nobody’s asked me. I have not been spoken to about the Magnitsky Act. So if somebody asks me about it, I’d study it. But at this moment, they have not asked me about it.”

In book excerpts made public the same day the president signed the legislation, his former national security adviser John Bolton claimed that Trump had encouraged Chinese President Xi Jinping to construct the widely condemned camps that human rights experts say are being used to indoctrinate Uighur Muslims.

“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, according to the excerpts. “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.”

Tags China Donald Trump John Bolton Trump administration Uighur Muslims Xi Jinping

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