On 18 August, President Donald Trump dropped a hint that a positive outcome of the trade talks would depend on how the Chinese authorities handle the situation in Hong Kong. "I would like to see Hong Kong worked out in a very humanitarian fashion”, he said. "I think it would be very good for the trade deal”.
"I think it'd be very hard to deal if they do violence, I mean, if it's another Tiananmen Square. I think it's a very hard thing to do if there's violence", the US president added in a reference to the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.
The protests in the semi-autonomous city that returned to Chinese rule in 1997, erupted in early June 2019 over the local government-proposed mechanism for the extradition of fugitives to mainland China. Although the local parliament suspended the bill on 15 June due to the public ire, Hong Kong demonstrators continue to urge the authorities to withdraw it completely. The protesters have also come up with a demand that the city authorities implement universal suffrage and retract criminal charges against those detained over rioting.
Trump earlier came under a storm of criticism from the Democratic Party for his unwillingness to meddle in the domestic affairs of the People's Republic of China (PRC). Thus, on 1 August, the US president made it clear that what was going on "is between Hong Kong and that’s between China, because Hong Kong is a part of China". "They’ll have to deal with that themselves. They don’t need advice", he stressed.
I know President Xi of China very well. He is a great leader who very much has the respect of his people. He is also a good man in a “tough business.” I have ZERO doubt that if President Xi wants to quickly and humanely solve the Hong Kong problem, he can do it. Personal meeting?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 14 августа 2019 г.
The Democratic Party has repeatedly lambasted Trump for inaction, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, an ardent supporter of the Hong Kong protesters urged the president "to walk away from his recent statements, which invite miscalculation, and to work to advance peace, justice and democracy in Hong Kong".
For her part, former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton endorsed the rioters on Twitter urging everyone to "stand in solidarity with the people of Hong Kong".
May we all stand in solidarity with the people of Hong Kong as they speak out for democracy, freedom from repression, and a world they long to see.— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) 13 августа 2019 г.
The People's Daily, a Chinese state-run newspaper, released a video with a compilation of Clinton's social media posts drawing parallels between the current events and her vocal support of previous unrest in Syria, Libya, Yemen, and Iraq which led to havoc and civil wars.
The stance of US politicians has triggered serious concerns in Beijing, who have called upon Washington to stop interfering in the country's affairs and accused American officials of throwing their weight behind the protesters.
"The US should know one thing, that Hong Kong is China’s Hong Kong, and we do not allow any foreign interference", Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying stated on 23 July.
Why Dems are Urging Trump to Crack Down on Beijing Over Riots
"The Democratic Party is taking a huge gamble by making it look like US President Donald J. Trump will defend Hong Kong protesters", says Tom McGregor, a Beijing-based political analyst and senior editor for China's national broadcaster CCTV. "Democrats are hoping that Beijing will get angry and derail US-China trade talks, spark military conflict in Hong Kong if the People's Liberation Army (PLA) forces march into the city and that could lead to a global economic crisis".
Earlier, The Atlantic, a left-leaning magazine, called Trump's cautious attitude to the Hong Kong protests "the greatest mistake of his presidency": "Trump’s response could hardly have been worse", the media claimed. "Not only was Trump silent on America’s core values. He also increased the risk of a major miscalculation by China with seismic geopolitical consequences".
McGregor presumes that the Democratic Party has set a trap for President Trump urging him to adopt a hardline stance towards Beijing over the protests while the US is holding trade talks with China.
According to him, the Democrats are apparently seeking to capitalise on a potential Sino-American row and economic crisis to disrupt the Trump 2020 presidential campaign. However, the CCTV editor believes that it is highly unlikely that Trump will walk right into the Democrats' trap.
Recent Protests in Hong Kong Differ From Umbrella Revolution of 2014
The Beijing-based journalist notes that the current turmoil differs from previous protests in Hong Kong, in particular, the Umbrella Revolution that engulfed the city in 2014.
The sit-in street protests that took place between 26 September and 15 December 2014 in the semi-autonomous city were triggered by a decision of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC) stipulating a selective pre-screening of candidates for the city’s elections of chief executive in 2017. The movement, however, was denounced as illegal by the mainland government and ended without any political concessions from Beijing.
"The [current] protests are different, since demonstrators have not only become more violent, but more resistant to compromise with the Hong Kong SAR (Special Administrative Region) government and Beijing. They hold a 'do or die' attitude", McGregor explains.
According to the CCTV editor, nothing hinted at a trouble when Hong Kong residents started criticising the introduction of the extradition bill.
"But when Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced [the bill's] suspension the protests turned violent", he says. "Apparently, organisers of the protests were not anticipating such a quick surrender by Carrie Lam. They responded with violence, starting with the midnight storming of the LegCo building on the evening of 1 July".
The journalist underscores that "the violence was condoned even by members of pro-democracy parties and HK SAR legislative members, including Charlie Mok who was witnessed in videos berating the police for attacking protesters".
Providing his prognosis on the unfolding situation, McGregor notes that "Beijing has sent a clear message: There will be resolution before China’s 70th Anniversary of its founding by 1 October".
"Should the protesters remain defiant and violent, they will discover Beijing has given them a deadline with a Red Line warning", the CCTV editor suggests. "PLA troops are already stationed at Shenzhen so this is not a bluff. On the other hand, this is an opportunity for the Hong Kong Police Department to step up and take more assertive measures to conduct mass sweeps and arrests, should protesters keep fighting. My prediction is that HK Police will rise to the challenge and come to the rescue to restore peace and stability to the city without requesting assistance and support from the PLA".
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