Trump attacks China, defends religious freedom, totally ignores Uyghurs

Domestic News

Before he began swatting at the Democratic Party’s impeachment inquiry earlier today, President Donald Trump was at the United Nations General Assembly yesterday, where he devoted more than four minutes to a markedly more critical message on China than his address to the same hall last year, in which he praised Chinese President Xí Jìnpíng 习近平.

South China Morning Post has two notable quotes from Trump’s speech:

  • After China’s WTO accession, “Not only has China declined to adopt promised reforms, it has embraced an economic model dependent on massive market barriers, heavy state subsidies, currency manipulation, product dumping, forced technology transfers and the theft of intellectual property and also trade secrets on a grand scale.”
  • “The world fully expects that the Chinese government will honour its binding treaty made with the British and registered with the United Nations in which China commits to protect Hong Kong’s freedom, legal system and democratic ways of life.”

Many in Washington will likely see the tough love from Trump to Beijing, compared with the friendly talk in previous years, as a move of leadership.

But there is one China-related issue which Trump has still never talked about, and yesterday made more obvious than ever that he is intentionally avoiding leading on: Xinjiang. Reuters reports:

U.S. President Donald Trump called for an end to religious persecution on Monday at a U.S. event on the sidelines of the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations featuring a woman whose Uyghur father has been imprisoned in China…

Trump did not specifically mention Xinjiang and he left the meeting before the woman, Jewher Ilham, spoke, but Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listened as she slammed the Chinese government. Pompeo said her father — a Uighur scholar — is serving a life sentence as a prisoner of conscience…

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan will host a separate event on Tuesday on the “human rights crisis in Xinjiang” in China…

A State Department official said at least 31 countries were expected to attend. The event will be co-hosted by the Netherlands, Germany, Canada and Britain, diplomats said.