Having cancelled his apparently "too hawkish" speech just a few weeks ago, presumably in the hopes of maintaining the trade truce with China, Axios reports that Vice President Mike Pence has signaled that the Trump administration is open to using the Global Magnitsky Act to sanction top officials in Xinjiang, China, where more than 1 million Uighur Muslims are being held in internment camps, according to a Chinese religious freedom advocate who met with Pence at the White House Monday.
As a reminder, in an attempt to justify its treatment of ethnic Uighur and other Muslims in Xinjiang, the Chinese government released a white paper in March detailing the state's anti-terror activity in the autonomous region, claiming that it has adopted a policy that "strikes the right balance between compassion and severity" in its de-radicalization measures.
According to its statistics, China has arrested 12,995 terrorists in the region since 2014 while also seizing over 2,000 explosive devices. Connected to 4,858 religious activities deemed illegal, a total of 30,645 people are said to have been punished. Furthering the focus on religion, Statista's Martin Armstrong details that 345,229 copies of illegal religious materials are also listed as having been confiscated. The government says that Xinjiang faces a serious threat from Islamist militants and separatists and cites 30 attacks since 1990 which they classify as acts of terror, claiming the lives of 458 people.
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The Chinese state's actions in the region remain under international scrutiny. Last year, a United Nations human rights panel said that it had received multiple credible reports that 1 million ethnic Uighurs are being held in what it describes as a "massive internment camp", under the guise of combating religious extremism. The U.S. mission to the UN tweeted in response to these findings that it is “deeply troubled by reports of an ongoing crackdown on Uighurs and other Muslims in China", calling on China to "end their counterproductive policies and free all of those who have been arbitrarily detained”.
But now, as Axios details, Bob Fu, founder of ChinaAid, said that Pence also told him that he planned to give a speech about China in the fall to address religious freedom issues.
Beijing has been paying close attention to Pence's plans for a second speech, as the vice president has been at the forefront of the administration's confrontation with China. So hawkish was a speech Pence gave in October that the New York Times framed it as a portent of a "New Cold War."
The headlines, via Axios, prompted selling in stocks as it clearly signals continued escalation of the broader war with China.
Finally, Axios reports that Pence had printed copies of his and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's recent speeches on China to demonstrate that the administration has been clear about its views on Xinjiang, Fu said.
Pence's meeting with the Chinese human rights advocates on Monday came on the same day President Trump took another step to escalate his economic conflict with China. Just hours after the meeting, the Treasury Department labeled China a currency manipulator.