19 January 2020
An anti-extradition bill demonstrator picks up a tear gas canister during clashes with riot police on Sunday. Photo: Reuters
An anti-extradition bill demonstrator picks up a tear gas canister during clashes with riot police on Sunday. Photo: Reuters

Trump says Xi Jinping has acted responsibly on HK protests

US President Donald Trump said he believes Chinese President Xi Jinping has acted “very responsibly” with the protests in Hong Kong over an extradition bill that could see people from the territory sent to China for trial, Reuters reports.

“We’re working on trade deals right now. We’ll see what happens,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Monday before an unrelated meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Hong Kong has been hit by a series of sometimes violent protests for over two months – its most serious crisis since the city was handed back to China by Britain in 1997 but with democratic freedoms under a “one country, two systems” formula.

“I know that that’s a very important situation for President Xi,” Trump said when asked about images of protesters being beaten and whether Beijing might have allowed this to happen.

“You could say what you said, but you could also say that he has allowed that to go on for a long time and … I think it’s been relatively nonviolent.”

Asked if he thought the protests should be allowed to continue, Trump said: “Well, they are … I don’t think China has stopped them. China could stop them if they wanted. … I think that President Xi of China has acted responsibly, very responsibly. … I hope that President Xi will do the right thing, but it has been going on a long time, there’s no question …”

Meanwhile, Hong Kong police faced criticism for an apparent failure to protect anti-government protesters and passersby from attack by what opposition politicians suspected were gang members at a train station over the weekend.

Protesters had earlier on Sunday surrounded the Central Government Liaison Office in Sai Ying Pun, and defaced walls and signs and clashed with police.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor condemned the attack, calling it a “challenge” to national sovereignty.

She condemned violent behavior of any kind and said she had been shocked by the clashes at the station, adding that police would investigate fully.

“Violence will only breed more violence,” Lam said while flanked by senior city officials.

Some politicians and activists have linked Hong Kong’s shadowy network of triad criminal gangs to political intimidation and violence in recent years, sometimes against pro-democracy activists and critics of Beijing.

On Sunday night, scores of men in white T-shirts, some armed with clubs, flooded into the MTR Station in Yuen Long and stormed a train, assaulting passengers with pipes, poles and other objects, according to video footage.

Witnesses, including Democratic lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting, said the men appeared to target black-shirted passengers who had been at an anti-government march.

Lawmaker Lam, who was wounded in the face and hospitalized, said the police ignored his appeals to them to intervene to prevent bloodshed.

“They deliberately turned a blind eye to these attacks by triads on regular citizens,” he told Reuters, saying the floors of the station were streaked with blood.

“I won’t speculate on why they didn’t help immediately.”

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