- NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images
- President Donald Trump tweeted on Wednesday that his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping was a “great leader” and posed setting up a “personal meeting” to solve escalating protests in Hong Kong, which have entered into their 10th week.
- “I have ZERO doubt that if President Xi wants to quickly and humanely solve the Hong Kong problem, he can do it. Personal meeting?” Trump tweeted.
- China has been flexing its military might for several weeks in the lead up to what has been labelled by observers as its most explicit threat to use force in Hong Kong seen yet.
- Experts told Business Insider that Trump’s lukewarm response to the crisis in Hong Kong is “not something we would usually see from a US president” and give Beijing a “green light” to proceed with a potentially high-price crackdown on Hong Kong.
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President Donald Trump tweeted on Wednesday that his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping was a “great leader” and posed setting up a “personal meeting” to solve escalating protests in Hong Kong, which have entered into their 10th week.
“I know President Xi of China very well. He is a great leader who very much has the respect of his people,” Trump said in a tweet on Wednesday evening.
“He is also a good man in a ‘tough business.’ I have ZERO doubt that if President Xi wants to quickly and humanely solve the Hong Kong problem, he can do it. Personal meeting?”
Trump has spoken about Hong Kong more frequently in recent days, though his responses to protests – which began over a controversial extradition law and have now evolved into a fight against Chinese encroachment – have been lukewarm.
On Tuesday, Trump said in a series of tweets that he was being blamed for the intensifying crisis in Hong Kong and said US intelligence determined that China was moving troops towards the Hong Kong border.
“Everyone should stay calm and safe!” he wrote.
And while speaking to reporters on Tuesday, he offered a muted response to ongoing clashes.
“The Hong Kong thing is a very tough situation, very tough. We’ll see what happens but I’m sure it will work out. I hope it works out for everybody – including China, by the way,” he said.
White House officials have also quietly been urged by those at “the top” of the Trump administration to maintain a “measured” response to the unrest in Hong Kong over concerns that hitting hard against Beijing could cause trade war negotiations to crumble, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Experts told Business Insider that Trump’s tepid statements about Hong Kong “are not something we would usually see from a US president” and give Beijing a “green light” to proceed with a potentially high-price crackdown on the territory.
China has been flexing its military might for several weeks in the lead up to what has been labelled by observers as its most explicit threat to use force in Hong Kong seen yet.
China is gathering troops in Shenzhen, a mainland city which runs along the border with Hong Kong, signaling that it is prepared for a military intervention in Hong Kong if protests continue.
In a propaganda video released by Chinese state media this week, numerous armored personnel carriers, trucks, and other vehicles can be seen parading through the streets of Shenzhen “in advance of apparent large-scale exercises.” The vehicles belong to the Chinese People’s Armed Police Force, a paramilitary police force responsible for riot control and counterterrorism.
The People’s Armed Police have been assembling in Shenzhen, a city bordering Hong Kong, in advance of apparent large-scale exercises, videos obtained by the Global Times have shown. https://t.co/3KgaXeHw3C pic.twitter.com/YXAORMay0W
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) August 12, 2019
Additional video posted to social media appeared to show military vehicles entering the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center, a large stadium located just 5 kilometers, or 3 miles, from the entrance to the Shenzhen Bay Bridge, which connects the city to Hong Kong.
Last week, 12,000 police officers, tanks, helicopters, and amphibious vehicles gathered in Shenzhen for what appeared to be anti-riot drills. In videos of the drills posted on Twitter by Chinese state media, police appear to charge at protesters dressed in all black and wearing face masks – similar to the uniform adopted by protesters in Hong Kong.
Still, experts are skeptical that Beijing is going to strike just yet.
Adam Ni, a China researcher at Macquarie University in Sydney, told Business Insider that while Beijing may at some point choose to use ground force, Chinese intervention isn’t imminent because the risks of such a move are too high at this stage.
“China has deferred military action [in Hong Kong] for so long because it thought at first that protests would run out of steam,” he said. “But I think Beijing recognizes that’s not gonna happen.”
John Haltiwanger contributed to this report.