Trump signs bill to sanction Chinese officials over Uighur rights

President Trump has signed legislation calling for sanctions on those responsible for China’s forced labor camps targeting Uighur Muslims and other Muslim minority groups. 

Trump signed the bill, formally entitled the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020, on Wednesday, a White House official confirmed. It was approved by the House and Senate in May.

In a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, Trump said the legislation “holds accountable perpetrators of human rights violations and abuses such as the systematic use of indoctrination camps, forced labor, and intrusive surveillance to eradicate the ethnic identity and religious beliefs of Uyghurs and other minorities in China.”

The legislation condemns the Chinese Communist Party for its treatment of Uighur Muslims and other Muslim minorities and calls for the camps in China’s Xinjiang region to be closed. It directs Trump to identify and sanction individuals responsible for abuses of minority groups.

Within 180 days of signing the bill into law, Trump is required to submit a report to Congress identifying each foreign individual, including Chinese government officials, determined to be responsible for human rights abuses of individuals in the Xinjiang region.

These abuses include torture; inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; prolonged detention without charges and a trial; abduction; and “other flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty or the security of persons.”

The bill requires the administration to sanction those individuals deemed responsible by blocking their assets and declaring them ineligible for visas or admission to the United States. The White House is allowed to waive sanctions if Trump deems it in the national interest, but the president is required to notify Congress that he plans to do so.

Trump said in the statement, however, that the law “purports to limit” his discretion to terminate sanctions and that his administration would treat that provision as “non-binding.”

“In some circumstances, this limitation could be inconsistent with my constitutional authorities to receive as diplomatic representatives certain foreign officials under Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution,” Trump said.

“My Administration will make appropriate efforts to comply with section 6(g) of the Act by notifying the relevant congressional committees before terminating sanctions with respect to a person under the Act, but it will not treat the provision’s requirement for advance notice as binding to the extent that it interferes with the President’s conduct of diplomacy,” he continued.

The legislation, authored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), passed the Senate by unanimous consent in mid-May and was approved by the House in an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote in the House at the end of last month.

The same day that Trump signed the legislation, an excerpt of his former national security adviser John Bolton’s book published in The Wall Street Journal alleged that Trump appeared to agree with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s reasoning for building the camps in the Xinjiang province during the 2019 Group of 20 (G20) meeting in Osaka.

“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.”

The Justice Department has filed a lawsuit to prevent the release of Bolton’s memoir next week, contending that it contains classified information. 

— Updated at 5:09 p.m.

Tags China Donald Trump John Bolton Marco Rubio Uighur

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