US Politicians Rally Behind Hong Kong Protesters, Warn Beijing Against Crackdown

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Posted: Aug 15, 2019 2:00 PM
US Politicians Rally Behind Hong Kong Protesters, Warn Beijing Against Crackdown

Source: AP Photo/Vincent Thian

As Hong Kong's police have steadily adopted brutal tactics to clamp down on Hong Kong's increasingly chaotic protests, U.S. politicians on the left and the right united in the last few days to denounce the escalating violence and urged China's authorities to accede to the protesters' five demands, a list which include calls for universal suffrage in the city-state.

Mitch McConnell was the first member of Congressional leadership this week to support the Hong Kong protests, which has now entered its tenth week, warning against "any violent crackdown" on Monday as China amassed troops in the area outside the city-state. On Wednesday, he doubled down on his support for Hong Kong's protesters after China accused him and House Majority Leader Nanci Pelosi of inciting "chaos" in Hong Kong.

"Images of Beijing-backed forces brutalizing civilians speak for themselves," McConnell tweeted. "Millions of Hong Kongers protesting the Chinese Communist Party’s encroachment know the truth about exactly who is responsible for 'inciting' chaos. The rest of the world knows too."

Pelosi has also twice denounced the police brutality in Hong Kong this week on Tuesday and Wednesday, urging China's authority to "immediately cease the aggression and abuse being perpetrated against their own people" in a press statement.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee also issued a joint, bipartisan statement signed by Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Ranking Member Michael McCaul (R-TX) on Wednesday,  in which they demanded "Beijing to cease encroaching on Hong Kong's autonomy — it is Beijing's action that are at the root of the frustration among the people of Hong Kong."

"We have deep respect for the brave efforts of Hong Kong people from every walk of life who have demonstrated their clear desire for freedom, democracy, and the rule of law," the statement read.

These statements on Wednesday came after China accused McConnell and Pelosi of interfering in Hong Kong for their comments earlier this week. China has repeatedly asserted that the demonstrations are orchestrated by the U.S. and thus does not represent the genuine expression of the Hong Kongese people.

“The U.S. denied on many occasions its involvement in the ongoing violent incidents in Hong Kong. However, the comments from those members of the U.S. Congress have provided the world with new and powerful evidence on the country’s involvement,” Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying said, according to CNBC.

The Foreign Affairs Committee directly responded to these Chinese allegations, noting that "No foreign powers are fomenting this dissent. It is the result of Beijing’s successive violations of their commitment to honor the will of the people of Hong Kong."

President Donald Trump also responded on Twitter on Wednesday to the situation in Hong Kong, although he stopped short of the unequivocal support for the protesters exhibited by his Congressional counterparts.

There have been multiple reports of Chinese military concentration in areas near Hong Kong. A CNN camera crew on Wednesday filmed a convoy of Chinese military personnel assembling into a stadium located only miles away from Hong Kong.

In addition, Trump said on Wednesday that he was willing to meet China's leader Xi Jinping, whom he described as a "great leader" and a "good man in a 'tough business.'" The president further doubled down on his overture today when he said he was sure Xi will reach a "happy and enlightening ending to the Hong Kong problem" if he would personally meet the protesters.

The president has also previously called the Hong Kong protests as "riots," mirroring the rhetoric used by Beijing to smear the protesters as undisciplined and violent, and said that the matter is strictly between Hong Kong and China. He also separately said on Tuesday that the "Hong Kong situation is a very tough situation."

Wilbur Ross, Trump administration's labor secretary, echoed the president's sentiment when he said this week that the Hong Kong protests are an "internal matter," deterring expectations that the White House might take aggressive measure in response to the demonstrations.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that Trump has instructed his administration officials to maintain a measured response when asked about Hong Kong issues, as he fears that backing the protesters could derail trade talks with China.

The comments come after Hong Kong's protests reached a flashpoint on Tuesday evening, when a largely peaceful demonstration in the city-state's airport went awry after protesters detained two individuals suspected of being police spies, one of who turned out to be a reporter for the Community Party paper.

Chinese state media and state-controlled social media quickly picked up on the incidents, flooding the Chinese internet with overwhelmingly negative assessments of the Hong Kong protesters.

The issue has also provoked much soul-searching among those in Hong Kong. The few dozen people still at the airport — which has now mostly resumed normal operation after canceling hundreds of flights while it was occupied by thousands of protesters — were seen holding posters apologizing for the incidents.

Protests shifted on Wednesday from the airport back into the Hong Kong streets and subways. The police were seen shooting tear gases into empty alleys and packed subways, causing chaos. Protesters for their part used their laser beams to illuminate a local police station to protest police violence.