In Brief

Trump warns China to treat Hong Kong ‘humanely’

US president says Beijing’s actions in territory could risk trade deal

Donald Trump has said that China must treat Hong Kong “humanely” before he would consider striking a trade deal with Beijing.

In a series of tweets yesterday evening, the US president said: “Of course China wants to make a deal. Let them work humanely with Hong Kong first!”

He added: “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?”

The Guardian says Trump’s “expression of concern” came after senior US lawmakers from both parties called on him “to take a tougher line with China as worries grew over a possible Chinese intervention”.

Following weeks of turbulent pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, sparked by opposition to an extradition bill, there has been speculation that Beijing is planning a direct military intervention.

Trump's own intervention on the issue has surprised many. Earlier, Politico reported that Trump’s top aides have repeatedly urged him to back Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters but found that “the president isn’t interested”.

The political news website says that national security adviser John Bolton, senior figures at the National Security Council and the State Department, and several economic advisers, are among those who encouraged the stance. They initially found that Trump was worried that criticising the Chinese leader’s efforts to stamp out dissent in Hong Kong will “scuttle the possibility of inking a deal this winter”.

Back in June, Trump had told Xi that he would not condemn the Chinese government over the crackdown in Hong Kong, saying he understood it was an internal issue in which Washington would not interfere.

However, in July his position began to turn when he made a supportive remark about the protests. “Well, what they’re looking for is democracy, and I think most people want democracy. Unfortunately, some governments don’t want democracy,” he said.

Bloomberg says Trump’s tweets will not go down well in Beijing. “Even suggesting a link between the trade dispute and the Hong Kong unrest will feed suspicions in Beijing that the US is seeking to leverage China’s domestic crisis as part of broader strategy to check its rise,” writes John Harney.

Meanwhile, the US president's national security advisor, John Bolton, has issued his own warning to Beijing, telling the regime to tread “carefully” in Hong Kong “because people in America remember Tiananmen Square”.

Speaking to Voice of America, he said a repeat of the military crackdown on the 1989 student-led protests in China would be a “big mistake”.

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