Beijing on Thursday slammed a new United States law that would sanction Chinese officials over the mass incarceration of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities, saying it "maliciously attacks" China's policy in the Xinjiang region.
Donald Trump told the Chinese president Xi Jinping that building concentration camps to "re-educate" Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang was the right thing to do, according to sensational claims in a new book by John Bolton, the former USA national security adviser.
Those deemed responsible would face sanctions such as having their assets frozen, denial of entry into the United States and visa revocation.
The sanctions move is likely to deliver a fresh blow to the already tense US-China relations.
The legislation condemns the Chinese Communist Party for the detention centers and recommends a tougher response to the human rights abuses suffered by Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities in the region.
As representatives of the global community, we are deeply concerned about the significant restrictions on religious freedom in China and call on the Chinese government to respect the human rights of all individuals. It also urged the USA to stop interfering in its internal affairs. "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", Bolton writes.
China, which denies mistreatment and says the camps provide vocational training and are needed to fight extremism, responded to the signing of the law with anger, saying it "vilified" the human rights situation in Xinjiang and was a malicious attack against China.
"We want to tell the United States that Xinjiang affairs are purely China's internal affairs and no foreign interference is allowed", the Foreign Ministry said.
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.
In an excerpt of his forthcoming book published by The Wall Street Journal, John Bolton wrote Trump discussed the detention camps built by the Chinese government for Uighurs in western China during a dinner at the G20 previous year.
The detainees were forced to endure countless hours of indoctrination and language classes.
The residents in Xinjiang province are subjected to draconian methods of tracking and arrests, with authorities using high-tech surveillance cameras for facial recognition.