Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday condemned China’s “brutal campaign of repression” against the country’s Uyghur Muslim population just days after John Bolton claimed President Donald Trump gave his blessing to that very campaign.
In remarks to the virtual Copenhagen Democracy Summit, Pompeo said this treatment, “green lighted” by Chinese President Xi Jinping, was “a human-rights violation on a scale we have not seen since World War II.”
The top US diplomat has repeatedly decried Beijing’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang, previously calling them “the stain of the century.”
According to the US State Department, the Chinese government has detained “more than one million Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and members of other Muslim minority groups” who are reportedly “subjected to torture, cruel and inhumane treatment such as physical and sexual abuse, forced labor, and death.”
However, according to Bolton’s forthcoming book, which was obtained by CNN on Wednesday, Trump expressed no issue with the concentration camps, and instead encouraged Xi to continue to build them.
“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.
“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,” he wrote.
The Chinese government has defended its policy in Xinjiang as necessary for national security and has denounced US efforts to “interfere” in its internal affairs.
Trump’s alleged comments on this matter were one of a series of stunning claims by Bolton about the US President. He described a litany of China-related matters where Trump subverted the US position based on conversations or gestures for Xi – tariffs, telecommunications, Hong Kong protests – and characterized Trump’s interactions with the Chinese leader as “adlibbed,” bolstered by personal flattery and driven by political ambition rather than policy.
Members of the Trump administration have sought to cast doubt on the veracity of Bolton’s book, while simultaneously seeking to prevent its publication by claiming it contains “classified” material.
On Thursday evening, Pompeo released a statement calling the former national security adviser “a traitor.” He said he hadn’t read the book, “but from the excerpts I’ve seen published, John Bolton is spreading a number of lies, fully-spun half-truths, and outright falsehoods.” Pompeo did not elaborate on which of the claims were untrue.
The same day that excerpts of Bolton’s book began to emerge, Trump signed into law the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act. That legislation passed with overwhelming bipartisan support and requires the President to submit to Congress a report identifying those responsible for carrying out human rights abuses in Xinjiang. Those individuals would then be subject to sanctions, including asset blocking, visa revocation, and ineligibility for entry into the United States.