In a rambling Fox News interview, the president called Xi Jinping ‘an incredible guy’ and indicated he might not sign a human rights bill to end the trade war.
United States President Donald Trump on Friday claimed Hong Kong would have been “obliterated” had he not told Chinese President Xi Jinping that sending troops into the semi-autonomous Beijing territory would have a “tremendous negative impact” on negotiations to end the two countries’ 16-month old trade war, Reuters reported.
“If it weren’t for me Hong Kong would have been obliterated in 14 minutes,” Trump told Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends” without backing it up with any credible evidence. “He’s got a million soldiers standing outside of Hong Kong that aren’t going in only because I ask him please don’t do it, you’ll be making a big mistake, it’s going to have a tremendous negative impact on the trade deal and he wants to make a trade deal,” Trump added, referring to Xi.
His comments came when the US Congress passed a legislation to back the Hong Kong protestors and threaten China with possible sanctions for human rights violations. Trump, however, gave no clear answer when asked whether he would sign the bills.
“Look we have to stand with Hong Kong, but I’m also standing with President Xi,” he said in the interview. “He’s a friend of mine. He’s an incredible guy. We have to stand.”
“But I’d like to see them work it out,” the president added. “Okay? We have to see them work it out. But I stand with Hong Kong, I stand with freedom, I stand with all of the things that we want to do.”
Trump sought a resolution to a tit-for-tat tariff trade war with Beijing, and said: “But we also are in the process of making the largest trade deal in history and if we could do that that would be great…If it weren’t for me thousands of people would have been killed in Hong Kong right now and you wouldn’t have any riots you’d have a police state.”
Later, speaking to reporters, Trump said he will take a “very good look” at the Hong Kong legislation. A veto by the president can be overridden by two-thirds votes in both the Senate and the House. If Trump decides to do nothing about it, the legislation will automatically become law on December 3.
The protests escalated in June over a now-scrapped extradition bill that would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial. They have since evolved into calls for greater democracy, among other demands.
The demonstrations have paralysed the city and affected the retail and tourism sectors, along with widespread disruptions across the financial centre and no end in sight to the violence and vandalism. Police have responded to the demonstrators with rubber bullets, tear gas, water cannon.
However, Beijing has maintained it is committed to the “one country, two systems” formula under which Hong Kong is governed. It denies meddling in its affairs and accuses foreign governments of stirring up trouble.
From the interview
Trump in the interview also claimed that Ukraine had interfered in the 2016 US presidential election, amid a controversy over him appearing to strongarm the country into investigating his potential presidential rival Joe Biden and son Hunter Biden. He claimed he was trying to root out corruption in Ukraine, while seeming to admit that he withheld aid to the country while trying to rid it of corruption. Trump is facing an impeachment inquiry in connection with this.
Trump also tore into former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, bringing up personal grouses with her, including that she seemed to have supported former US President Barack Obama. “Her attitude towards me was far from the best as she admired the previous President and she was on his side. She would not accept me as a new President well enough,” CNN quoted him as saying. He added that she did not hang his picture in the embassy in Ukraine.
He also again criticised US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, calling her “crazy as a bedbug” and “nuts”, and claimed to know who the whistleblower in the Ukraine case is.