President Trump toed the line on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests amid trade negotiations with China on Friday, telling Fox & Friends that “we have to stand with Hong Kong, but I’m also standing with President Xi.”
Trump said Friday that there is “a very good chance to make a deal,” with China, after reports in October suggested that a phase-one deal had been agreed to in principle, only for the Chinese to stall the process. The president also said that the Hong Kong situation was “a complicating factor” in negotiations, but also claimed negotiations were the reason China had not cracked down harder on protestors.
“If it weren’t for me, Hong Kong would’ve been obliterated in 14 minutes,” Trump said. “He’s got one million soldiers standing outside of Hong Kong, that aren’t going in only because I ask him ‘please don’t do that, you’ll be making a big mistake, it’s going to have a tremendous negative impact on the trade deal.’ And he wants to make a trade deal.
“I stand with Hong Kong, I stand with freedom, I stand with all of the things that I want to do,” the president continued. “But we are also in the process of making the largest trade deals in history.”
The president did not comment on whether he would sign the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which was passed by the Senate with a bipartisan veto-proof majority on Tuesday.
Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) who sponsored the bill, said its passing was “an important step in holding accountable those Chinese and Hong Kong government officials responsible for Hong Kong’s eroding autonomy and human rights violations. Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.), who has been an outspoken critic of Chinese totalitarianism in Hong Kong, added that the bill “sends a clear message that the United States will continue to stand with the people of Hong Kong as they battle Beijing’s imperialism.”
Responding in a statement on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the purpose of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act was to “bolster anti-China, extremist and violent radicals who attempt to disrupt Hong Kong [and] damage Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability.”