ANKARA 

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday slammed President Donald Trump for holding off on sanctions against China regarding Uighur minority group due to the trade deal between the two countries.

“President Trump’s admission that he is looking the other way and enabling one of the worst human rights atrocities of our time in order to ink a trade deal is appalling,” she said in a statement.

Pelosi’s remarks came in response to Trump who said he delayed placing Treasury sanctions on Chinese officials involved in violent treatment of Uighurs in mass detention camps because the US and China “were in the middle of a major trade deal.”

“And when you’re in the middle of a negotiation and then all of a sudden you start throwing additional sanctions on — we’ve done a lot. I put tariffs on China, which are far worse than any sanction you can think of,” he defended his decision in interview with Axios published Sunday.

“If America does not speak out for human rights in China because of commercial issues, we lose all moral authority to speak out for human rights any place in the world,” said Pelosi.

The Californian Democrat said Trump refused to hold accountable the Chinese officials for “a campaign of brutal repression” against Uighur people and other Muslim minorities and violations including in Hong Kong.

She recalled that the bipartisan “Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act” signed by Trump last week “provides further sanctions and accountability measures, rings extraordinarily hollow in light of his clearly stated lack of interest in standing up to Beijing.”

The legislation calls for Trump to submit to Congress a list of senior Chinese government officials who are engaged in or responsible for serious human rights abuses and mandates the State Department report to Congress on human rights abuses in Xinjiang, including individuals detained in forced labor camps.

China’s Xinjiang region is home to around 10 million Uighurs. The Turkic Muslim group, which makes up around 45% of Xinjiang’s population, has long accused China’s authorities of cultural, religious and economic discrimination.

Up to 1 million people, or about 7% of the Muslim population in Xinjiang, have been incarcerated in an expanding network of “political re-education” camps, according to US officials and UN experts.

In a report last September, Human Rights Watch accused the Chinese government of a “systematic campaign of human rights violations” against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.

According to the 117-page report, the Chinese government conducted “mass arbitrary detention, torture and mistreatment” of Uighur Turks in the region.

China denies the allegations, maintaining the camps are vocational training centers.

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