- President Trump has been urged by aides to declare stronger support for Hong Kong’s protesters but has rejected their requests, Politico reported Thursday.
- President Trump is attempting to negotiate a trade deal with China’s President Xi Jinping, and end a trade war that has seen the US and China levy punitive tariffs on each others exports.
- Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of Hong Kong in recent weeks to demonstrate against measures to bring the former British colony under closer Chinese control.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
President Trump has rejected requests from aides and administration officials to more strongly back Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests because he’s concerned the move could endanger a possible trade deal with China, Politico reported Thursday.
Citing multiple people familiar with the matter, the outlet reported that national security adviser John Bolton, China-focused officials at the National Security Council and State Department, and economic advisers all want the president to declare unequivocal support for the protesters in Hong Kong.
Protests have been raging in the semi-autonomous region of China for over two months, with Hong Kongers fighting against proposed measures to bring the former British colony under closer control from Beijing.
The president though is reportedly not interested in offering stronger backing for the protesters, as he believes doing so could sour relations with President Xi Jinping, with whom he is currently seeking to negotiate a trade deal.
At the G20 summit in June the president even told Xi that the US would mute its criticism of the way China handled the protests in order to reopen trade talks, Politico reported Thursday. The Financial Times first reported Trump’s muted criticism in June.
In recent months, the US has imposed tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of Chinese imports in response to what the White House claims are unfair trade practices by Beijing. China has responded with tariffs of its own on US goods.
The White House did not immediately return a request for comment from Business Insider on Politico’s report.
Trump’s response to the protests has been inconsistent. On Tuesday he offered only muted support for the protests, but in tweets late Wednesday, he seemed at least briefly to reverse course, offering his strongest backing yet for the protesters.
President Trump had been criticised by Democratic politicians, foreign policy experts and human rights activists for offering only limited backing for the Hong Kongers who have taken to the streets of the city.
They initially gathered to demand the removal of an extradition bill tying the city more closely to China, but after it was withdrawn continued to gather to defend democratic freedoms.
Under the agreement that the UK reached with China when it handed back control of the former colony in 1997, Hong Kong has a separate legal system and freedoms the rest of China does not have.
In recent days, China has started building a military presence in the city of Shenzhen, close to the Hong Kong border, leading to concerns that authorities could be preparing a violent crackdown on protesters.
With the 2020 US presidential election fast approaching, President Trump is under pressure to reach a trade deal with China.
Economic advisers are warning the president that the trade war will hurt US consumers, and farmers in states whose support is crucial for Trump’s re-election are seeing their businesses damaged by the tariffs.
- More than 8,000 stores are closing in 2019 as the retail apocalypse drags on — here’s the full list
- Ex-Trump officials Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos to speak at conference organized by a QAnon backer who wants to train ‘digital soldiers’
- Hundreds of flights to Hong Kong have been cancelled as protests rock the city. Here’s what to do if you’re scheduled to fly there