Just as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Chinese official Yang Jiechi, Trump signed into law an act that authorises sanctions for Chinese officials involved in the detention of some one million minority Muslim Uighur ethnic group.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, speaks as Chinese Communist Party Office of Foreign Affairs Director Yang Jiechi listens as the two countries hold a joint news conference at the US Department of State, Washington, US, November 9, 2018.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, speaks as Chinese Communist Party Office of Foreign Affairs Director Yang Jiechi listens as the two countries hold a joint news conference at the US Department of State, Washington, US, November 9, 2018. (Reuters Archive)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met over nearly nine hours at a Honolulu military base with senior Chinese official Yang Jiechi, in the two countries' highest-level meeting since the coronavirus pandemic sent tensions skyrocketing, a State Department official said.

They met away from media as excerpts came out from an explosive memoir by former US national security advisor John Bolton, who said that President Donald Trump asked President Xi Jinping for assistance in his re-election.

In the meeting, Pompeo stressed “the need for fully-reciprocal dealings between the two nations across commercial, security, and diplomatic interactions,” US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

'Constructive dialogue'

Beijing said the two sides agreed to continue engagement.

“Both sides fully articulated their countries’ respective positions, and believe that this was a constructive dialogue. Both sides agreed to take action to implement the consensus reached by leaders of both countries,” China’s Xinhua news agency said.

Just as Pompeo met Yang, Trump signed into law an act that authorises sanctions for Chinese officials involved in the detention of some one million minority Muslim Uighur ethnic group.

Beijing quickly responded that the law "maliciously attacks" China and threatened consequences.

China will "resolutely hit back and the US will bear the burden of all subsequent consequences," the Chinese foreign ministry said.

And Pompeo and his counterparts from the other Group of Seven major industrial democracies put out a joint statement voicing "grave concerns" about a draft security law in Hong Kong.

"We strongly urge the Government of China to reconsider this decision," said the joint statement by Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.

China is moving ahead with a law that would prohibit subversion and other perceived offences in the financial hub, to which Beijing promised autonomy before taking back the British colony in 1997.

Trump signs bill seeking sanctions on China 

US President Donald Trump signed legislation that calls for him to impose sanctions on Chinese officials for Beijing's treatment on the minority Muslim Uighur ethnic group.

The House of Representatives and Senate sent the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020 to Trump in May. Its title includes an alternative spelling for Uighur.

It 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 State Department report to Congress on human rights abuses in Xinjiang, including individuals detained in forced labour camps.

The Chinese government denies the allegations and describes them as vocational schools aimed at dampening the allure of religious extremism and violence.

The Chinese embassy in Washington previously said the bill “blatantly smears China’s counterterrorism and deradicalisation measures and seriously interferes in China’s internal affairs,” which Beijing “deplores and firmly opposes”.

China called the US to "stop using Xinjiang-related issues to intervene in China’s internal affairs and refrain from going even further down the wrong path.”

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

Read more: Secret documents reveal how China mass detention camps for Uighurs work

One million souls

Up to 1 million people, or about 7 percent of the Muslim population in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, 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 Uighur Autonomous Region.

According to the 117-page report, the Chinese government conducted "mass arbitrary detention, torture and mistreatment" of Uighurs in the region.

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

Read more: How Uyghurs are silenced from sharing their suffering with the world

Source: TRTWorld and agencies