WASHINGTON, Aug 15 — US President Donald Trump today urged Chinese President Xi Jinping to meet personally with the protesters in Hong Kong, saying it would lead to an end to tensions that have seized the territory for weeks.
“If President Xi would meet directly and personally with the protesters, there would be a happy and enlightened ending to the Hong Kong problem. I have no doubt!” Trump tweeted.
Trump’s tweet came a day after he tied a US trade deal with China to a humane resolution of the weeks of protests wracking Hong Kong. He made that comment hours after the State Department said it was “deeply concerned” about reports of movement of Chinese paramilitary forces along the Hong Kong border.
Trump, who has been seeking a major deal to correct trade imbalances with China ahead of his 2020 re-election bid, has faced criticism from Congress and elsewhere for not taking a stronger public line on Hong Kong and for his characterisation of the protests earlier this month as “riots” that were a matter for China to deal with.
His apparently tougher stance yesterday followed an internal debate within the White House and State Department over whether the United States was looking too compliant as the Chinese appeared to be preparing for a crackdown.
A source familiar with the deliberations, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that while an even-handed approach was smart, it was not the right signal to send in this case.
A statement from China’s foreign ministry today said Beijing had noted Trump’s comment that Beijing needs to resolve the crisis in Hong Kong on its own.
Trump said last month that Xi had acted “very responsibly” in dealing with the protests. The Financial Times newspaper reported earlier in July that the US president had agreed with Xi at the Group of 20 summit in June to tone down criticism of China’s handling of the crisis.
Yesterday, US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross appeared to back this approach in a CNBC interview.
“The president has made clear that he is watching very carefully what’s happening,” Ross said. “The question of it is what role is there for the US in that manner? This is an internal matter.”
White House national security advisor John Bolton told the Voice of America later yesterday that he understood the mood in Congress was “very volatile” with regard to the Hong Kong issue, and warned that “a misstep by the Chinese government, I think, would cause an explosion on Capitol Hill.” — Reuters