Standoff Continues In Hong Kong As Trump Waffles
Standoff Continues In Hong Kong As Trump Waffles
President Trump wants to have his cake and eat it, too, when it comes to the standoff between China and Hong Kong.
In a rare moment of bipartisanship, the House and Senate have passed a bill supporting the protestors of Hong Kong during their standoff against police, backed by China. It now goes to Donald Trump’s desk for a signature.
China, however, is letting the president know that they don’t want this bill signed.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the U.S. actions severely damage bilateral relations and do not help world peace and stability, and state news media urged the United States to “rein in the horse at the edge of the precipice” and stop interfering in China’s internal affairs.”
“If the U.S. side obstinately clings to its course, the Chinese side will inevitably adopt forceful measures to take resolute revenge, and all consequences will be borne by the United States,” the People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s official newspaper, said in a front-page editorial.”
This is causing Trump to twist himself into logistical pretzels. He wants the trade deal, but knows that China wants Hong Kong squashed down – which he doesn’t want. So, he tried splitting hairs this morning during a phone interview on “Fox & Friends.”
Trump on Hong Kong protests: "We have to stand with Hong King, but I'm also standing with President Xi. He's a friend of mine, he's an incredible guy. We have to stand … if it weren't for me, thousands of people would have been killed in Hong Kong right now." pic.twitter.com/LeQAoAMYQv
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) November 22, 2019
“If it weren’t for me, thousands of people would have been killed in Hong Kong right now,” Trump said in a phone interview with the “Fox & Friends‘’ program Friday. “The only reason he’s not going in is because I’m saying it’s going to affect our trade deal.”
“I stand with Hong Kong. I stand with freedom,” the president added. “But we’re also in the process of making the largest trade deal in history. And if we could do that, that would be great. China wants it, we want it.”
Asked about the Hong Kong unrest, Trump replied, “That’s a complicating factor, no question about it. If it weren’t for me, Hong Kong would have been obliterated in about 14 minutes.”
Let’s pick this apart. First, Trump says President Xi is a “friend” and an “incredible guy,” and then acknowledges in the next breath that Xi could wipe out Hong Kong if he wanted to in this standoff. That’s not friendly, but it is pretty incredible that President Trump can keep saying stuff like this. Second, Trump claims that only his disapproval and the trade deal are staying China’s hand when it comes to Hong Kong. That might be true, but doesn’t that give us enormous leverage in this situation? If the situation is as Trump claims, that China wants this deal, then why isn’t he leveraging the treatment of Hong Kong into these negotiations? I know that Trump wants this deal badly, and that we are so desperately and stupidly entangled economically with China (the amount of American national debt that the Chinese currently hold should keep everyone up at night, but both sides continue to sign omnibus spending bills and throw money around like it’s going out of style) that we do need some kind of trade agreement to keep tariffs off the table.
But this is a wasted opportunity for President Trump. He has a real chance here to make an aggressive economic stand against China, after his continued complaints about how they have stolen technology from American companies for years. Yes, the economy would suffer if this economic standoff turned into a trade war with tariffs. But the president could make the case directly to the American people that we have a MORAL obligation to get into a trade war with China over not just the standoff in Hong Kong, but their continuing human rights abuses. He could make this case! And he won’t! He’s actually considering vetoing the bipartisan bill, all because he doesn’t want to piss off the Chinese during the trade negotiations. The Democrat presidential candidates are busy saying crazy things and boring people to death while they debate, but Trump knows that he must run on the economy. A trade war is not something he wants or needs during a reelection bid. And he doesn’t think he could sell it to the American people on moral grounds. He might be saying all the right things to China about Hong Kong and staying Xi’s hand at the moment, but the truth is that Trump really does think of America first. He will say the right things about “standing with Hong Kong,” but he knows he needs the farmer in Iowa to vote for him. The bill is veto-proof – meaning that if he does veto it, there are enough votes in the House and Senate to override him. And that may be the route he takes, just so he can save face with China. But it’s the coward’s way out. This is a moment when standing up for human rights might cost us something, but it would be worth it. But President Trump sees a trade war as a threat to the economy, and not something he can risk starting with the Chinese. So, if he vetoes it, and then Congress overrides him, it lets him blame Congress when China complains. It’s a game of cover-my-ass for completely pragmatic reasons. But if Americans were used to picking the safe and pragmatic reasons, we would have never have won the Cold War. If wishes were horses, then we could make Trump into Reagan – but we can’t.
And while the president waffles, students are still under siege. Polytechnic University has dozens of students still holding out against the police, who see no end in sight to the standoff.
Commissioner of Police Chris Tang Ping-keung appealed to the holed-up activists after several more emerged overnight from the campus, which has been under police siege since Sunday.
In his first public comment on the issue since taking charge of the 31,000-strong force, Chris Tang highlighted the importance of a peaceful resolution as he warned the campus was becoming increasingly dangerous.
He also promised not to arrest minors or those with immediate medical needs on the spot. Those who were over 18 would be arrested straight away, he added. The chief said the force reserved the right to arrest underage protesters later.
I’m sure that is very comforting to the protestors, since many are deeply afraid that if they fall into police hands, they will simply “disappear” and their families told that they have “committed suicide” during the standoff. The Hong Kong authorities are reporting that “suicides” have just skyrocketed since the protests started. What an amazing coincidence!
According to various media reports, since the protests began in June, the number of reported suicide cases have soared. In the two months following June 12, the number of suicide cases reported was about 10 people in every ten-day period. Then, from Aug. 21 to Aug. 31, the number suddenly rose to 18. And in the following ten days, the number jumped to 49. So far, the total number has exceeded 100, and many of the victims were young protesters, according to various media reports. Needless to say, this is extremely abnormal.”
It’s gotten to the point that student protestors, knowing they could die, have recorded farewell messages.
But, you know, we can’t piss China off or have a trade war. So Trump may veto this bill, we may avoid tariffs, and protestors in Hong Kong may die.
In the future, will we say “Poly U” the same way we say “Tiananmen Square”?
Featured image: President Donald Trump, official White House photo by Shealah Craighead, cropped, public domain