President Donald Trump didn’t merely stand idly by as Xi Jinping detained Uighur Muslims en masse — but encouraged the Chinese leader to build facilities akin to “concentration camps” to imprison members of the minority group, former national security adviser John Bolton claims in his new bombshell book, “The Room Where It Happened.”
The Trump administration has sued Bolton to block the publication of the book, an excerpt of which was published Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal and which The New York Times has described as a “withering portrait of a president ignorant of even basic facts about the world.” The White House claims the book contains classified information.
The excerpt contains several damning details about Trump’s relationship with Xi and China.
In it, Bolton claims that Trump had asked him in 2018 “why we were considering sanctioning China over its treatment of the Uighurs, a largely Muslim people who live primarily in China’s northwest Xinjiang Province.”
At the opening dinner of the Osaka G-20 meeting in June 2019, 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. 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.
Xi’s government has been accused of imprisoning at least 1 million Uighurs in detention camps, where inmates have reported torture, sexual assault and other crimes. China has defended these camps as anti-terrorism “re-education centers.”
The excerpt of Bolton’s book was published on the same day that Trump signed legislation aimed at punishing China for its treatment of Uighurs and other ethnic minority groups.
Trump said in a statement that the bill, which includes sanctions on specific Chinese officials involved in the repression of Uighurs, would hold accountable “perpetrators of human rights violations such as the systematic use of indoctrination camps, forced labor, and intrusive surveillance to eradicate the ethnic identity and religious beliefs” of minority groups in China.
Trump noted, however, that some parts of the bill could limit his executive authority to engage with diplomats, so he said his administration would treat those as “advisory and non‑binding.”
In his book, Bolton also wrote that Trump sought Xi’s help to win reelection in 2020 by purchasing agricultural products from key farm states in the U.S.
Bolton said Trump was heard “pleading with Xi to ensure he’d win” during a Group of 20 summit meeting last year. Trump “stressed the importance of farmers and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome,” Bolton wrote.
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