Thursday 19 September 2019

Felicia Sonmez: 'Trump says Xi should 'meet the protesters' for a happy outcome'

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US President Donald Trump. Photo: Reuters
US President Donald Trump. Photo: Reuters

Felicia Sonmez

President Donald Trump said this week that Chinese President Xi Jinping should meet with the pro- democracy protesters in Hong Kong, where violent clashes have raised fears of a military crackdown.

"If President Xi would meet directly and personally with the protesters, there would be a happy and enlightened ending to the Hong Kong problem," Mr Trump said in a morning tweet. "I have no doubt!"

The president urged Mr Xi again in an exchange with reporters in Morristown, New Jersey, on Thursday evening, although he said he knew "it's not the kind of thing he does".

"I wouldn't want to see a violent crackdown," Mr Trump said, adding that he believed Mr Xi could work out a solution in 15 minutes if he were willing to meet with the protesters. "It really seems like things that could be worked out pretty quickly."

Mr Trump's remarks came one day after he tweeted that he had "ZERO doubt" that Mr Xi could "quickly and humanely solve the Hong Kong problem" if he wanted to.

"Personal meeting?" Mr Trump said. He did not clarify at the time whether he meant a meeting with himself or the protesters.

China's government has recently likened the protests to "terrorism", and a meeting between Mr Xi and the demonstrators is unlikely.

Earlier this week, thousands of protesters shut down Hong Kong's international airport, defying an intensifying police crackdown. But the protests were marred by late-night mob scenes, as demonstrators seized two men - one a reporter for Chinese state media, another they claimed to be a Chinese government agent - and clashed with police and paramedics who tried to evacuate the pair.

The episode marked a dramatic escalation after months of protests and marches by the demonstrators. They initially took to the streets in opposition to a bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, but as fears of Beijing's erosion of Hong Kong's autonomy have grown, the scope of the protesters' demands has widened.

Since its return to China from Britain in 1997, Hong Kong has operated under a 'one country, two systems' policy that has afforded it a degree of autonomy. Under the terms of the handover, Hong Kong's judicial, political and economic systems are to remain independent until 2047. But Beijing declared in 2014 that the agreement was merely "a historical document" that "no longer has any practical significance", prompting a pushback from Britain and an international outcry.

That year, the city was gripped by large-scale demonstrations demanding democratic change. Those protests, called the "Umbrella Movement", ended without concessions from the Hong Kong government, and several of the movement's leaders were sentenced to prison.

Beijing has dismissed the latest outpouring of anger toward the Hong Kong government and police by describing the protests as a "colour revolution" and claiming, without evidence, that they are part of a US-backed "terrorist" scheme instigated by a handful of radicals.

© Washington Post

Irish Independent

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