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US-China relations took a hit ever since the onset of coronavirus in January 2020. President Donald Trump accused China on multiples occasions of hiding information and blamed it for spreading the disease across the world.
The latest blow to the already tense US-China ties came on June 17 when Trump approved a bill that would allow him to impose sanctions on Chinese officials involved in the mass incarceration of more than 10 lakh Uighurs and members of other largely Muslim minorities in the western region of Xinjiang. The new legislation is the most significant action by any country to punish China over its treatment of ethnic minorities.
"The Act holds accountable perpetrators of human rights violations and abuses such as the systematic use of indoctrination camps, forced labour, and intrusive surveillance to eradicate the ethnic identity and religious beliefs of Uyghurs and other minorities in China," Trump said in a statement.
As per reports, the Uighur Human Rights Act, which passed through Congress with near-unanimous support, requires the US administration to identify Chinese officials responsible for the "arbitrary detention, torture and harassment" of Uighurs and other minorities in Xinjiang. The US would then move to freeze any assets held by those officials in its jurisdiction and ban their entry into the country.
This decision was not taken well by the Chinese authorities who then lashed out at the United States on June 18 saying Washington stop interfering in its affairs and warned of retaliatory measures in response to the Trump's move.
"This so-called act deliberately slanders the human rights situation in Xinjiang and maliciously attacks China's policy in governing Xinjiang," Chinese ministry said.
On Wednesday, June 17, the same day that Trump signed the legislation, John Bolton, former United States Ambassador to the United Nations, accused the president of once supporting Beijing's crackdown in Xinjiang. In an excerpt from his forthcoming book, published in 'The Wall Street Journal', Bolton said Trump had questioned why the United States would impose sanctions on the Chinese officials involved.
In a private meeting with Xi at the G20 meet Japan last year, Bolton wrote that the president accepted the Xi's rationale for the creation of a vast system of concentration camps and surveillance 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 in his book.
Bolton also accused Trump of making appeals to Xi Jinping to buy produce from farmers in states considered vital to his re-election campaign.
Bolton's account underscored the jarring contradictions of Trump's policies toward China. The American administration has strongly criticized China, most recently for its aggressive move to limit Hong Kong's autonomy and for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has now killed more than 1,17,000 Americans and infected more than two million.
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