China’s Global Times, a government-run newspaper, praised U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday for refusing to give “advice” to China on handling ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
This editorial stance contradicted repeated accusations from the Chinese Foreign Ministry against Trump for organizing the protests in the first place.
Millions in Hong Kong have taken the streets since June demanding the autonomy entitled to them by “One Country, Two Systems,” the official policy that grants China sovereignty over Hong Kong in exchange for Hong Kong opting out of Communist Party rule. The Hong Kong Legislative Council (LegCo) proposed a bill this year that would have allowed China to extradite individuals present in Hong Kong for violating Communist Party law, a move protesters argued would make communist law viable on Hong Kong soil and thus violate “One Country, Two Systems.”
The Chinese Communist regime has insisted on calling Hong Kong’s peaceful protests “riots” and repeatedly threatens a military invasion to kill the protesters, most recently publishing a propaganda video yesterday showing a simulated military crackdown on an anti-communist rally.
Asked about growing tensions in Hong Kong on Thursday, Trump said that “something is probably happening” there.
“[W]hen you look at, you know, what’s going on, they’ve had riots for a long period of time,” Trump told reporters in Washington. “Somebody said that at some point they’re going to want to stop that. But that’s between Hong Kong and that’s between China, because Hong Kong is a part of China.”
Trump refused to advise China on the matter: “They’ll have to deal with that themselves. They don’t need advice.”
The Global Times praised Trump for “telling the truth” about Hong Kong, a departure from its typically negative content about Trump and the United States generally, and especially surprising given yesterday’s announcement that Trump would be “taxing the hell out of China” until Beijing accepted a trade deal favorable to American businesses.
“US President Donald Trump on Thursday rightly described recent violent protests in Hong Kong as riots, and said China should handle the situation by itself as the city is part of China,” the Times claimed. The newspaper added that Trump “drew the ire of many anti-government forces” but praise from Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying, who applauded Trump for being “correct.”
“At least two of Trump’s sentences are correct this time. One is describing recent violent protests in Hong Kong as ‘riots’ and the other that Hong Kong is part of China, Hua said,” according to the Global Times.
Prior to those remarks, Hua has insisted on an almost daily basis that Trump himself was organizing the protests.
“Judging from what was on the media, we see clear signs of foreign manipulation, orchestration and even organization in the relevant violent incidents,” Hua asserted last week. “I hope the U.S. will answer this question honestly and clearly: what role did the U.S. play in the recent incidents in Hong Kong and what is your purpose behind it?”
“We advise the U.S. to withdraw its dirty hands from Hong Kong as soon as possible,” she warned.
“The US owes the world an explanation” for the Hong Kong protests, Hua said on Tuesday. “In July, [Vice President Mike] Pence, [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo and [National Security Advisor John] Bolton met with opposition personnel. In the scenes revealed on media, we saw some American faces among the violent demonstrators in Hong Kong. We even saw the national flag of the US on some occasions.”
“Those who play fire will only get themselves burned. … We advise the US to immediately stop playing the dangerous game of pulling chestnut out of fire,” Hua insisted.
She repeated the same accusations on Wednesday, chastising a reporter for asking China for evidence that the United States fabricated the anti-China protests: “Do you think I still have to present more evidence or proof?”
“We can see it clearly from the recent media reports. If the US disagrees, it can just prove its innocence by listing facts and make clear promises that it has not interfered in Hong Kong affairs and will not do so in the future,” she added. “We will most certainly welcome that. You may ask the US side what actions it will take to prove its innocence and make such promises.”
On Thursday, a senior Chinese official in Hong Kong repeated the accusations that “foreign forces” had created the protests.
“There could be interference from external forces, and various signs are pointing towards Taiwan and the US,” Tung Chee-hwa told an audience at an event celebrating the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
The sudden positive turn by the Global Times and foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua has made China’s stance on the Hong Kong protests no longer coherent. It continues torn between praise for Trump and claims that Trump is the mastermind behind the pro-democracy movement.
As the Foreign Ministry praised Trump on Friday, top Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi was still accusing Trump of organizing the protests.
“The US and some other countries have been mixing right and wrong, stirring up trouble during the recent violent incidents over the revision of an extradition amendment Bill in Hong Kong,” Yang reportedly told the Chinese government news agency Xinhua. “We strongly urge the US and some other Western governments to abide by international law and basic norms of international relations, adhere to their commitment not to interfere in Hong Kong affairs.”
On Friday, China’s most reliable lawmaker in Hong Kong, Junius Ho, organized a press conference claiming to have evidence that “unknown foreigners” were among the crowds protesting China. His “evidence” was a collection of surveillance camera stills of non-racially Asian people in protest crowds, in particular one European-looking man. As the identity of this “foreigner” was
“unknown,” Ho did not corroborate his claim that the person did not live in Hong Kong.
The pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong is indigenous and rooted in the longstanding political tradition in the city of Western civil rights norms. Hong Kong was a British colony for centuries, handed over to China in 1997. While some Hong Kong protesters have waved American flags as symbols of freedom, the Chinese government has yet to present substantial evidence indicating that American government officials organized the organic protest movement.
The protesters are currently demanding a full withdrawal of the extradition bill that started the protests, a formal declaration from the Hong Kong government that the peaceful protests are not “riots,” freedom for the political prisoners taken during the protests, and universal suffrage, giving Hong Kongers the power to elect lawmakers directly.