Saturday, July 18, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, excerpt thirteen)

from The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir by John Bolton:

China was also busily repressing ethnic minorities—in Tibet, for example—as it had been doing for decades. Beijing’s repression of the Uighurs also proceeded apace. Trump asked me at the 2018 White House Christmas dinner why we were considering sanctioning China because of its treatment of the Uighurs, a non-Han Chinese, largely Muslim people, who lived primarily in China’s northwest Xinjiang Province. Ross had warned me that morning Trump didn’t want sanctions because of the China trade negotiations. The issue of the Uighurs had been wending its way through the NSC process, but it was not yet ready for decision. It only got worse. At the opening dinner of the Osaka G20 meeting, with only interpreters present, Xi 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 he thought was exactly the right thing to do. Pottinger told me Trump said something very similar during the 2017 trip to China, which meant we could cross repression of the Uighurs off our list of possible reasons to sanction China, at least as long as trade negotiations continued.

Religious repression in China was also not on Trump’s agenda; whether it was the Catholic Church or Falun Gong, it didn’t register. That was not where Pence, Pompeo, and I were, but it was Trump’s call. US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, pressing for Trump to do a religious freedom even at the upcoming September 2019 opening of the UN General Assembly, thought China was “horrible across the board,” which was just about right.

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