The stakes are rising in Hong Kong, as clashes between pro-democracy protesters and the local government backed by China are escalating. The damage could be global if President
orders a bloody crackdown, and President
should be warning the Chinese President not to do it.
Protesters have occupied the territory’s international airport for several days this week. Violence erupted Tuesday when some demonstrators detained two men they suspected of being pro-government infiltrators. One was bound and at least one beaten before being rescued by emergency workers. Riot police showed up, and the confrontation turned violent in front of the world’s TV cameras.
It’s reasonable for protesters to worry about infiltrators, and they point to the discovery of a Chinese passport and pro-police shirt among the detained men’s belongings. Tuesday’s disorder is still a propaganda victory for Beijing as it tries to turn the public against what have been overwhelmingly peaceful protests.
Under pressure from Beijing,
Cathay Pacific Airways
threatened Monday to punish or fire staffers “who support or participate” in protests, and on Tuesday the airline’s majority shareholder Swire Pacific said it would “resolutely support” Hong Kong Chief Executive
Yet the government is the real provocateur. The protests began in June when the Legislative Council tried to ram through a bill that would allow Beijing to extradite anyone in Hong Kong to the mainland. Amid overwhelming public opposition, Ms. Lam has declared the legislation “dead” but refused to withdraw it. Police have responded to the protests with hundreds of arrests and increasing brutality.
Hong Kong’s cause should be the free world’s, which is why Mr. Trump’s failure to speak against a Chinese crackdown is inexplicable. On Tuesday he tweeted that “Our Intelligence has informed us that the Chinese Government is moving troops to the Border with Hong Kong. Everyone should be calm and safe!”
That’s fine for a journalist but not for a President. An invasion of Hong Kong would violate China’s treaty with Britain and poison U.S.-Chinese relations for months or years. It would probably kill any chance of a bilateral trade deal before the 2020 election and could lead to U.S. sanctions against Chinese officials.
It would also open Mr. Trump to criticism from Democrats that his failure to speak up for Hong Kong gave a green light to Mr. Xi. This is a case when China’s President needs blunt candor, not familiar Trumpian flattery.
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