WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump said China’s Xi Jinping “acted responsibly” after seven weekends of demonstrations in Hong Kong and new fears that protesters and the China-backed government are heading toward a violent confrontation.
“I think President Xi of China has acted responsibly, very responsibly – they’ve been out there protesting for a long time,” Trump told reporters Monday at the White House. “I hope that President Xi will do the right thing,” he said, adding that China could stop the protests “if they wanted.”
On Sunday, after a rally of more than 100,000 people in Hong Kong island, police fired smoke canisters to clear the streets after demonstrators defied government requests to cut short another large and otherwise peaceful march through the Asian financial hub. Later that night in Yuen Long, a town near the mainland border, running street battles occurred as roving groups of masked men, some suspected to be triads, attacked protesters.
The city’s embattled leader, chief executive Carrie Lam, has resisted calls to resign despite protests exceeding 1 million participants. What began as a largely leaderless effort to block legislation allowing extraditions to the mainland has expanded into a list of demands including investigations into police tactics and a direct vote to replace Lam.
Hong Kong police arrested six men for unlawful assembly in relation to the attacks on Sunday night of Mass Transit Railway passengers in Yuen Long, Senior Superintendent Chan Tin-chu said in a briefing, according to police’s Facebook page.
The men were aged between 24 and 54 and some have links with triad organized crime syndicates, Chan said, adding further arrests related to Sunday’s violence are likely.
The Sunday incidents underscored a gathering sense of political crisis in the former British colony, which has been wracked by weeks of mass demonstrations and unrest, including the ransacking of its legislative chamber earlier this month.