US President Donald Trump has warned China that carrying out a Tiananmen Square-style crackdown on Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters wreck trade talks between the two countries.
“I think it’d be very hard to deal if they do violence, I mean, if it’s another Tiananmen Square,” Trump told a media briefing over the weekend. “I think it’s a very hard thing to do if there’s violence.”
The year-long dispute between the United States and China has shattered confidence in the world financial markets amid signs of a possible global economic slowdown.
Still, Trump’s comments came as Washington and Beijing look to revive pivotal high-level talks aimed at ending their trade war next month.
Phone calls are planned for the next 10 days, and if those are successful, negotiations between more senior officials could resume, according to Trump’s chief economic advisor Larry Kudlow on Sunday.
Now it appears that Hong Kong has been thrown into the mix. The Special Administrative Region has been rocked by more than two months of demonstrations.
On Sunday, organizers claimed 1.7 million people marched peacefully in the city despite rising unrest and stark warnings from Beijing.
Last week, protesters paralyzed Hong Kong’s airport, tarnishing a campaign that took pride in its peaceful intent and unpredictability – which demonstrators have tagged with the slogan “Be Water.”
Communist Party-ruled mainland China has, in turn, sharpened its tone towards the dissidents, decrying the “terrorist-like” actions of a violent minority.
As for the state media, it has broadcast images of military personnel and armored personnel carriers in Shenzhen, across the border from the semi-autonomous city.
China deployed tanks to end student-led protests in the bloody 1989 massacre in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, resulting in an estimated death toll of hundreds if not thousands.
“[If such a situation was repeated in Hong Kong], I think there’d be … a tremendous political sentiment not to do something,” Trump said, referring to the trade negotiations with China.
Under a deal signed with Britain, China agreed to allow Hong Kong to keep its unique freedoms when the former crown colony was handed back in 1997.
But many people in the city feel those freedoms are being chipped away, especially since President Xi Jinping came to power on the mainland.
Yet despite the concerns, China’s hardline state-run Global Times said there “won’t be a repeat” of Tiananmen Square in a rare reference to the crackdown.
“China is much stronger and more mature, and its ability to manage complex situations has been greatly enhanced,” the newspaper wrote in an editorial.
– reporting by AFP