President Trump assured Chinese president Xi Jinping during a June phone call that the U.S. would avoid taking a position on the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong while trade talks were ongoing, according to a new report from CNN.
The story sheds further light on State Department efforts to keep the then-U.S. general counsel in Hong Kong, Kurt Tong, from speaking in an official manner about the protests stateside. Tong had two events, one in June and another in early July, slated to address the escalating tensions in Hong Kong, but both were called off.
The Financial Times was first to report on Trump’s alleged promise, prompting State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus to deny the story, saying it “was based off of anonymous reports, and that’s not something that we ever validate here at the State Department. I don’t see much truth to that.”
Trump has drawn recent criticism for his deference to China, including a tweet congratulating Xi on the 70th anniversary of the Chinese Communist regime Tuesday, the same day that a Hong Kong protester was shot by police. Trump also attracted criticism for comments Thursday suggesting that China investigate Joe and Hunter Biden for corruption.
“China should start an investigation into the Bidens,” Trump told reporters on the White House lawn, “because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine.” While he denied having asked Xi for such an investigation personally, he would not rule out doing so in the future.