President Trump has proposed a meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping to discuss how to "humanely solve" months of protests that have wracked Hong Kong.
In a Wednesday evening tweet, Trump called Xi "a great leader who very much has the respect of his people."
"He is a good man in a 'tough business,' " the president added. "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's remarks came after some 10 weeks of pro-democracy protests that have frequently devolved into clashes with police, paralyzing the Asian financial hub. Most recently, thousands of demonstrators occupied Hong Kong's international airport, causing the cancellation of hundreds of flights.
The president's tweet on Wednesday suggested that Hong Kong's unrest was Beijing's to solve, ignoring an agreement between London and Beijing that led to the 1997 handover of the former British colony. The agreement is meant to guarantee the territory's right to its own laws, police force and judiciary. The deal, known informally as "One China, Two Systems," remains in effect until 2047.
Although Beijing had no immediate reply to Trump's tweet, Hu Xijin, the editor of the People's Daily, a tabloid run by China's ruling Communist Party, tweeted that the U.S. president "hasn't linked trade talks with [the] Hong Kong problem. It won't work even if he does so."
Trump's remarks came on the same day and in contrast to a State Department statement that it was "deeply concerned" about China respecting Hong Kong's autonomy.
"We condemn violence and urge all sides to exercise restraint, but remain staunch in our support for freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly in Hong Kong," a State Department spokesperson said. "The ongoing demonstrations in Hong Kong reflect the sentiment of Hongkongers and their broad and legitimate concerns about the erosion of Hong Kong's autonomy."
In recent days, Beijing's state media have aired ominous footage of China's People's Armed Police conducting exercises in Shenzhen, just across the border with Hong Kong. In the video, armored personnel carriers are seen rumbling down Shenzhen streets, evoking memories of the June 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre in which Chinese troops killed thousands of pro-democracy protesters.
On Thursday, CPAP troops in fatigues could be seen in a Shenzhen stadium as part of what were described as "large-scale exercises," according to Reuters.
Trump's apparent offer on Hong Kong comes after a similar remark he made in June about India and Pakistan regarding their dispute over Kashmir.
Trump said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him to mediate the Kashmir dispute. The Indian government quickly disputed that.
Earlier this month, India, which controls part of Kashmir, revoked the province's decades-old special status, arrested hundreds of local politicians and cut off Internet and telephone service there. Pakistan has reacted with anger, saying India's actions could eventually lead to war.
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