The President of the USA Donald Trump has signed legislation on Wednesday which sanctions those responsible for China’s Muslim Uighur concentration camps. Earlier this month the Bill was passed almost unanimously through U.S. Congress as more than a million Muslims are now detained in the Xinjiang camps.
The good news was short lived for two reasons.
1. Trump says he regards the sanctions as advisory, not mandatory
House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that the bill was a clear message to the Uighur Muslim minority that they have support in Washington. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the camps were “the stain of the century”
President Trump said in a statement “The Act 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 Uighurs and other minorities in China”
It means that the US administration has 180 days to determine which Chinese officials are responsible for “arbitrary detention, torture and harassment” of Uighur Muslims or other minorities, and then sanction them. It also includes sanctioning any other individuals who are responsible for carrying out torture, prolonged detention without charges and a trial, abduction and cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment of Muslim and other minority groups.
Sanctions would ban those officials found guilty from entry to the USA as well as freezing their assets and revoking their visas to many countries.
Global News reported that “the bill’s sanctions requirements might limit his constitutional authority as president to conduct diplomacy so he would regard them as advisory, not mandatory”
This means that while sanctions have been placed, the President can wave them for whichever official he sees best in order to conduct diplomacy. It is not clear whether this will make the sanctions ineffective.
It was also noted that when President Trump signed the Bill, he did not hold a ‘signing ceremony’ as he usually does when signing such legislation.
2. The same day he was accused of encouraging the concentration camps himself
The Bill was signed at the same time as excerpts were published from a book by former national security adviser John Bolton, who claimed that President Trump encouraged Chinese President Xi Jinping to build the camps, alleging that President Trump told the Chinese President that the building of the camps was “exactly the right thing to do”
“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” John Bolton writes “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 Trump administration is attempting to block the release of the book claiming it reveals national secrets of the USA.
Will this change anything?
Last week the US Commerce Department announced restrictions on 33 Chinese firms which are believed to have helped China spy on the Muslim Uighur population.
Last week also saw President Trump pass sanctions against the International Criminal Court (ICC) in response to their decision to open an investigation to alleged war crimes in Afghanistan. The alleged war crimes were carried out by all sides including the USA and it’s allies.
On Wednesday President Trump also hit Syria’s Bashar al Assad with fresh sanctions aimed to force him back to the negotiating table. 39 targets for sanctions were released on Bashar and his wife Asma al Assad, after a Syrian military photographer smuggled 50,000 photos of Syrian army atrocities out of the country prompting the Caesar Act sanctions.
The result of all these recent sanctions remains to be seen.