John Bolton has claimed in a new book that US President Donald Trump was resistant to sanctioning China for its religious repression, saying that China’s crackdown on the Catholic Church “didn’t register” with the US president.
Bolton’s new work, The Room Where It Happened, recounts his time as national security adviser to President Donald Trump. The White House is currently trying to block its release, arguing that it “still contains classified information,” but US media outlets have received advance copies and have published some of the allegations Bolton makes against the president.
One of the most controversial of these allegations is Bolton’s claim that President Trump was privately courting the Chinese government as part of his 2020 re-election bid. Bolton writes that during a meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping at a G20 meeting in Japan last year, Trump “stunningly, turned the conversation to the coming US presidential election, alluding to China’s economic capability and pleading with Xi to ensure he’d win.”
Bolton writes that, according to the US interpreter at the meeting, Trump went on to affirm President Xi’s policy of re-education camps for the Uyghur Muslim population, which the US president thought was “exactly the right thing to do.”
Bolton alleges that this was because Trump privately prioritised trade negotiations above religious freedom. “Religious repression in China was also not on Trump’s agenda; whether it was the Catholic Church or Falun Gong, it didn’t register,” he writes.
If true, these stances conflict sharply with Trump’s public record on China and religious freedom. The US president upped tariffs as part of a US-China trade war and has been particularly vociferous in his criticism of China’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, arguing that they “could have easily stopped the plague, but they didn’t!” He also signed an executive order on religious freedom after his visit to the St John Paul II National Shrine in Washington earlier this month and, on Wednesday, he signed the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020, which seeks to punish China for its human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims.
President Trump has been scathing about the new book, telling the Wall Street Journal this week that his former national security advisor “is a liar.” Today Trump tweeted that Bolton’s book “is a compilation of lies and made up stories, all intended to make me look bad … the ridiculous statements he attributes to me were never made, pure fiction.” Trump added that Bolton was “trying to get even for firing him like the sick puppy he is!”
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