Pelosi: 'Appalling' for Trump to delay Chinese sanctions over Uighur detention camps

Pelosi: 'Appalling' for Trump to delay Chinese sanctions over Uighur detention camps
© Bonnie Cash

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden coronavirus relief bill tests narrow Democratic majority Some Republicans say proxy voting gives advantage to Democrats Gun violence prevention groups optimistic background check legislation can pass this Congress MORE (D-Calif.) on Monday said it was "appalling" for President TrumpDonald TrumpSouth Carolina Senate adds firing squad as alternative execution method Ex-Trump aide Pierson won't run for Dallas-area House seat House Oversight panel reissues subpoena for Trump's accounting firm MORE to hold off on sanctions against Chinese officials involved with detention camps for Uighur Muslims out of concern it would jeopardize a U.S.-China trade deal.

Her comments were in response to Trump's remarks during an interview with Axios published Sunday in which he was asked why he hadn't enacted the sanctions. "Well, we were in the middle of a trade deal," Trump said.

Pelosi blasted the decision to hold off on sanctions over what she called a "campaign of brutal repression" by the Chinese government.


"If America does not speak out for human rights in China because of commercial issues, we lose all moral authority to speak out for human rights any place in the world," Pelosi said in a statement Monday. "President Trump’s admission that he is looking the other way and enabling one of the worst human rights atrocities of our time in order to ink a trade deal is appalling."

Trump has long had the authority under the 2012 Global Magnitsky Act to sanction human rights offenders.

He defended his stance on not imposing sanctions by pointing to the tariffs that his administration has imposed on China.

"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. I put tariffs on China, which are far worse than any sanction you can think of," Trump told Axios.

Trump maintained that he hadn't been asked to invoke the Magnitsky Act to sanction China over the Uighur camps.

"When you say the Magnitsky Act, just so you know, nobody's mentioned it specifically to me with regard to China," Trump said.


Trump signed bipartisan legislation into law last week that further calls for sanctions on Chinese officials for their role in the Uighur detention camps.

He signed the bill the same week that an excerpt of his former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonTrump offered North Korea's Kim a ride home on Air Force One: report Key impeachment figure Pence sticks to sidelines Bolton lawyer: Trump impeachment trial is constitutional MORE's book alleged that Trump appeared to agree with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s justification for building the camps in Xinjiang.

"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," Bolton wrote.

Bolton also alleged that Trump had asked him at the 2018 White House Christmas dinner why his administration was considering sanctioning China over its treatment of the Uighurs.

In the Axios interview, Trump denied other allegations from Bolton's book that said he asked Xi to increase China's farm purchases from the U.S. to boost his reelection prospects.

"What I told everybody we deal with — not just President Xi — I want them to do business with this country," Trump said.

"By the way, what's good for the country is good for me," he added. "What's good for the country is also good for an election."