[Editor’s note: The following statement was issued by the JACL’s executive director, David Inoue, and VP, Public Affairs, Sarah Baker.]
JACL continues to be disturbed by the president’s insistent use of phrases such as “Kung Flu” to describe COVID-19 as he did in his rally in Tulsa, Okla., this past weekend. And yet, that was not the most troublesome news about the president this past weekend.
On Thursday, reporting on a new book from former National Security Advisor John Bolton, it was revealed that last year Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Trump discussed the concentration camps China was using to imprison mostly Uighur, but also Kazakh and other predominantly Muslim minority groups. In response, President Trump responded that China should continue to build the camps and that, “he thought it was exactly the right thing to do.” In an interview on Friday, President Trump also confirmed that he had delayed issuing sanctions on China to ease the completion of a trade deal. To date, the United Nations has estimated that at least one million people have been imprisoned in the Uighur concentration camps.
It is abhorrent that our president is not only exchanging economic trade deals for Uighur lives but actively encouraging the construction and expansion of these camps.
As Japanese Americans are all too familiar, our country has a history with concentration camps when 120,000 of us were incarcerated during World War II with no cause except for our Japanese ancestry. Similarly, those being imprisoned in China are being targeted for no reason other than their Muslim beliefs and their Uighur or Kazakh identities.
It comes as no surprise, rather a great disappointment, that our president has encouraged China’s behavior, as we continue to discriminate against people seeking to enter our country via the Mulsim Ban. We have also imprisoned immigrants seeking asylum in detention centers that share an uncanny resemblance to the barracks in which Japanese Americans were imprisoned during World War II.
At the signing ceremony for the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which provided apology and reparations for Japanese Americans who had been incarcerated, President Ronald Reagan emphasized that the apology was more about our nation’s honor than any replacement of monetary or property losses.
Unfortunately, in not only selling out the Muslim minorities in China for a trade deal, and actively encouraging the expansion and building of more concentration camps, that honor has long since been lost.