- President Donald Trump encouraged the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong to meet with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, suggesting that a personal meeting between both sides would lead to “a happy and enlightened ending to the Hong Kong problem.”
- In a Thursday morning tweet, Trump suggested the face-to-face meeting as an apparent way to ratchet down tensions after recent violent clashes.
- The tweets represent Trump’s some of his most extensive public comments yet on the upheaval in the semiautonomous territory, which has lasted over two months.
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President Donald Trump encouraged Chinese leader Xi Jinping to meet with the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, suggesting that a personal meeting would lead to “a happy and enlightened ending to the Hong Kong problem.”
In a Thursday morning tweet, Trump suggested the face-to-face encounter as an apparent way to ratchet down tensions after recent violent clashes between young protesters and police.
“If President Xi would meet directly and personally with the protesters there would be a happy and enlightened ending to the Hong Kong problem,” Trump tweeted. “I have no doubt!”
It follows another tweet where he praised Xi as “a great leader” capable of “humanely” solving “the Hong Kong problem.” Xi has been the general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party and China’s president for six years, during which time term limits on the presidency were lifted – allowing Xi to potentially serve until his death.
The tweets represent Trump’s most extensive public comments on the upheaval in the semiautonomous territory, which has lasted over two months. Though the mass demonstrations were initially focused on an unpopular extradition bill, they have evolved into a pro-democracy movement pushing back against Beijing’s efforts to tighten its grip over Hong Kong.
As the protests have escalated, Trump has avoided criticising Beijing and recently described events in Hong Kong as “a very tough situation.” And Trump has effectively placed himself as more of a neutral observer rather than a champion of democracy in a break with previous presidents from both parties.
Some Democratic and Republican members of Congress have put out statements offering full support for the protesters, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. But some like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy drew criticism for directly tying the pro-democracy activists to the United States.
Trump’s relative ambivalence on the protests and past praise of Xi’s displays of muscular rule, however, may undercut any supportive message the president sends towards Hong Kong protesters.
“Trump’s history of public admiration for Xi Jinping as a repressive ruler who may stay in office indefinitely sends a clear signal of approval for anything Xi does to show his strength, including any military action in Hong Kong,” New York University historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat told INSIDER’s John Haltiwanger.