WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he was sure China and Hong Kong would be able to “work things out” after mass protests in the city against an extradition bill that would allow people to be sent to mainland China for trial.
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at a fundraiser in Des Moines, Iowa, June 11, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Hong Kong has been rocked by some of the worst violence it has seen since Britain handed it back to Chinese rule in 1997 with a guarantee of extensive autonomy and freedoms, including a separate legal system and freedom of speech.
Organizers said a protest against the bill on Sunday drew more than a million people, or one in seven of the city’s people. Police put the figure at 240,000 at the march’s peak.
“That was a million people. That was as big a demonstration as I’ve ever seen,” Trump said to reporters at the White House.
“I hope it all works out for China and for Hong Kong,” Trump added. “I understand the reason for the demonstration but I’m sure they will be able to work it out. I hope they’re going to be able to work it out with China.”
The United States has extensive business interests in Hong Kong and has been struggling to formulate a response to the latest standoff, even as Trump battles Beijing on trade.
The State Department said on Monday it was gravely concerned about the proposed amendments to extradition laws and warned that such a move could jeopardize the special status Washington affords Hong Kong.
However, analysts say any move to end such special treatment could prove self-defeating for the United States, whose firms have benefited from the business-friendly conditions in Hong Kong.
A U.S. congressional commission said last month that amending the extradition laws could provide grounds for Washington to re-examine elements of the bilateral relationship as outlined in the United States–Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992.
The act establishes a legal framework by which Washington accords Hong Kong special treatment distinct from the rest of China for purposes of U.S. domestic law.
The State Department said this week that it was concerned the amendments to the extradition laws could damage Hong Kong’s business environment and expose U.S. citizens in Hong Kong “to China’s capricious judicial system.”
It said any amendments should be pursued with great care and in full consultation with local and international stakeholders.
Trump said on Wednesday he had a “feeling” that a U.S.-China trade deal could be reached but again threatened to increase tariffs on Chinese goods if no agreement was made.
Reporting by Steve Holland, Doina Chiacu and David Brunnstrom in Washington; Editing by James Dalgleish and Rosalba O’Brien