The eyes of the world are on Hong Kong this week as police forces working as extensions of the authoritarian mainland Chinese government clash with pro-democracy protestors in a series of escalating, increasingly violent confrontations inside the special administrative region.
— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) August 13, 2019
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) August 13, 2019
The people of Hong Kong deserve the full support of the United States as they struggle to defend and secure for themselves some of the freedoms and ideals we hold so dear in America. Unfortunately, the monster currently inhabiting the Oval Office has far more in common with the oppressors than the oppressed in this situation and is demonstrating his usual profound lack of moral leadership.
A new report from Politico reveals that while members of the Trump administration have been pushing President Trump to throw his full support behind the protestors — as his predecessors would have — he remains unswayed. Given his illiberal tendencies, this is perhaps not surprising but is no less inexcusable for that fact.
Politico explains that Trump has tunnel vision on trade with China right now. His disastrous tariffs have thrown Sino-American economic relations into chaos and the president thinks that taking a strong stance on the Hong Kong conflict will anger Chinese dictator Xi Jinping and make it much harder to hammer out an economic deal in the coming year. Once again, we see Trump privileging his own political interests over traditional American values.
Reportedly, Trump spoke with Xi on the phone shortly before the G-20 summit in June and promised him that he wouldn’t side with Hong Kong if Xi’s government decided to bring its heel down on the city and citizens. Instead, Trump would recognize it as an “internal” Chinese issue.
Officials are understandably confused by Trump’s promise and are struggling to juggle his vow to Xi with the obvious moral imperative to support the protestors. One senior administration official told Politico that the “freedoms of expression and assembly are core values that we share with the people of Hong Kong and these freedoms should be protected. The United States firmly rejects the notion that we are sponsoring or inciting the demonstrations.” While it’s a nice sentiment, it’s clearly not a notion shared by the American president.
Trump has offered nothing but incredibly tepid tweets on the Hong Kong protests so far. Speaking to Politico, Mike Green, a former National Security Council official during the George W. Bush years, described Trump’s behavior as flashing a “green light” to Xi.
The president’s latest tweet on the issue certainly supports Green’s opinion. Trump stated that he knows Xi “very well” and that he is a “great leader” and a “good man” who will “quickly and humanely” fix the “Hong Kong problem” if he so chooses.
I know President Xi of China very well. He is a great leader who very much has the respect of his people. He is also a good man in a “tough business.” I have ZERO doubt that if President Xi wants to quickly and humanely solve the Hong Kong problem, he can do it. Personal meeting?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 14, 2019
It must be noted that the man the American president is praising in this tweet has abolished term limits to make himself president for life and is also running a government which has set up internment camps for an estimated two million Muslims to “reeducate” them and strip them of their shared culture. By no metric is Xi a “good man,” which is exactly why Trump sees a kindred spirit in him. The president is a coward for refusing to stand up to Xi and his authoritarianism and the world will end up paying a terrible toll for his failings.