Donald Trump warns China crackdown on Hong Kong protesters will scotch trade deal

Nicola Smith
Pro-democracy protesters shield themselves with umbrellas in tear gas as they clash with police in Hong Kong - REUTERS

Donald Trump has warned China that a violent crackdown in Hong Kong would imperil any trade deal with the US, saying he wants to see a "humanitarian" solution to the unrest. 

The US president hinted that the White House would like to see Beijing resolve the ongoing protests in the special administrative region before any trade deal is struck between the two countries.

The pro-democracy movement has rocked Hong Kong, the country's major financial hub, with massive demonstrations over the past three months. 

"I would like to see Hong Kong worked out in a very humanitarian fashion," Mr Trump told reporters on Sunday. "I think it would be very good for the trade deal."

Larry Kudlow, Mr Trump's chief economic adviser, said trade deputies from the US and China would speak within 10 days in the hope of bringing negotiations around to ending the current trade war.

However China has shown little sign of easing its position on the protests in Hong Kong, which it has denounced as "terrorist-like" actions. 

Chinese state media has released a rap video accusing Western governments of meddling in Hong Kong’s affairs and inciting the pro-democracy rallies. The English-language song, by government-sponsored gangsta rap group CD Rev, bemoans “a beautiful dream turning into a nightmare.”

Using video of the most violent moments of the protests, it switches to the lyrics: "Hey democracy! Once I heard you be found in the Middle East, people were throwing bombs across the city streets," and issues a cry to “get those foreign agents outta town.”

To make its point, the rap signs off with a quote from Mr Trump that “Hong Kong is a part of China.”

Meanwhile Beijing lashed out at Taiwan over its offer of political asylum to participants in Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement. The democratically elected government of Taiwan, a self-ruled island that China wishes to annex, strongly supports the protests, and has previously granted residency to several vocal opponents of the Chinese regime.

On Monday, Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesman for the Chinese Cabinet's Taiwan Affairs Office, said Taiwan's offer would "cover up the crimes of a small group of violent militants" and encourage their "audacity in harming Hong Kong and turn Taiwan into a "heaven for ducking the law."

Mr Ma demanded that Taiwan's government "cease undermining the rule of law" in Hong Kong, cease interfering in its affairs and not "condone criminals."

However, Hong Kong residents do not need to seek asylum to study or work in Taiwan, and the island of 23 million, only one hour’s flight away, is increasingly being viewed as potential bolthole for those looking to escape the city’s uncertain future under Beijing’s rule.

Taiwan has seen a sharp rise in requests from Hongkongers who have applied to move there since the start of the protests two months ago, reported the South China Morning Post.  

 Between June and July, Taiwan’s National Immigration Agency received 681 applications, 636 of which were approved – an increase of 45.5 and 57.4 percent on last year.

The rise fits an emerging trend over the past decade, which has seen the figure of Hong Kong citizens applying to come to Taiwan rise from 3,677 in 2009 to 6,556 in 2018.