President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he doesn’t understand why critics are blaming him for the escalating tensions in Hong Kong, and urged “calm” as he said the Chinese government moves troops to the border.
“Many are blaming me, and the United States, for the problems going on in Hong Kong. I can’t imagine why?” Trump tweeted on Tuesday afternoon, after riot police clashed with pro-democracy protesters in the Hong Kong airport.
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He added, “Our Intelligence has informed us that the Chinese Government is moving troops to the Border with Hong Kong. Everyone should be calm and safe!”
The president has generally taken a hands-off approach to the protests, choosing instead to focus more on his efforts to strike a trade deal with China. Earlier on Tuesday, his administration announced that it would delay duties on cellphones, laptops, video game consoles, toys, and certain footwear and clothing made in China, marking a deescalation in the long-running trade war.
“The Hong Kong thing is a very tough situation,” Trump told reporters on his way to Pennsylvania on Tuesday. “I hope it works out peacefully. I hope nobody gets hurt. I hope nobody gets killed.”
The protests in Hong Kong are in response to the government’s proposed legislation that would allow individuals to be extradited from the semi-autonomous island to mainland China. Many Hong Kong residents see it as an overreach of power and have since demonstrated in favor of a democratic system. Protests at the Hong Kong airport, one of the busiest in the world, grew so large that Chinese officials canceled all incoming and outgoing flights on Monday and dozens more on Tuesday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has spoken out in favor of the demonstrations with virtually no pushback from the president.
“The extraordinary outpouring of courage from the people of Hong Kong stands in stark contrast to a cowardly government that refuses to respect the rule of law or live up to the ‘one country, two systems’ framework which was guaranteed more than two decades ago,” she said in a statement. “The people of Hong Kong deserve the true autonomy that was promised, with the full rights guaranteed by the Hong Kong Basic Law and international agreements.”
Pelosi also promised to begin drafting legislation that penalizes any Chinese officials who interfere with the movement for Hong Kong’s autonomy when Congress returns in September. It remains unclear whether or not Trump will support the legislation.