President Donald Trump labeled recent protests in Hong Kong as “riots,” adopting the language used by Chinese authorities and suggesting the U.S. would stay out of an issue that was “between Hong Kong and China.”
“Something is probably happening with Hong Kong, because when you look at, you know, what’s going on, they’ve had riots for a long period of time,” Trump told reporters at the White House last week.
Trump said he didn’t know what China’s attitude was toward unrest in the former British colony, which is home to tens of thousands of Americans. “Somebody said that at some point they’re going to want to stop that,” Trump said. “But that’s between Hong Kong and that’s between China, because Hong Kong is a part of China.”
The Global Times, a nationalistic newspaper published by China’s Communist Party, signaled approval with an article headlined “Trump tells truth about HK riot.” The ruling party has long used such allegations to justify using force against dissidents, dubbing the 1989 pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square a “counter-revolutionary riot.”
Trump’s comments about the protests in Hong Kong could bolster the city’s Beijing-backed government to crack down, despite the U.S. State Department’s official efforts to defend protesters’ freedom of expression.
Last week, China said recent violence in Hong Kong protests was the “creation of the U.S.,” for the first time laying direct blame on Washington as their dispute over the unrest escalates.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying made the remark at a news briefing Tuesday in response to comments by U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo. The top American diplomat had said that he hoped “the Chinese will do the right thing” in managing the protests in Hong Kong.
Trump administration officials said Friday the president had no intention to signal a policy change or an endorsement of China’s position. DB/Bloomberg