Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned China’s government that a violent crackdown on protesters in Hong Kong would be “completely unacceptable” as pro-democracy demonstrations in the Chinese-ruled territory widened anew Monday.
With protests inside Hong Kong’s airport prompting all flights there canceled through at least Tuesday, Mr. McConnell entered the fray via Twitter to assert that the “people of Hong Kong are bravely standing up to the Chinese Communist Party as Beijing tries to encroach on their autonomy and freedom.”
The Kentucky Republican’s comments came as Trump administration officials called on protesters and Chinese authorities to avoid violence, but also as some analysts called on the U.S. to show more solidarity with the demonstrators — even as Beijing accuses Washington and others of stoking unrest in Hong Kong.
“The U.S. should stand by the people of Hong Kong as they seek freedom,” said Olivia Enos, a senior policy analyst with the Heritage Organization, a conservative think tank in Washington.
“The international community should watch China’s rhetoric and actions closely,” she said in comments circulated to reporters on Monday. “More importantly, the U.S. should determine what its long-term role will be in supporting freedom in Hong Kong.”
Protests have mounted since June, when hundreds of thousands marched through Hong Kong to voice opposition to proposed legislation in the territory that would have paved the way for people there to be extradited to mainland China, where they could face politically motivated trials.
More recent weeks have seen clashes not between police and protesters, as well as gangs of armed thugs targeting protesters. The demonstrations have also morphed into pro-democracy rallies at times, with reports of protesters chanting slogans favoring freedom and democracy.
Reuters on Monday characterized the increasingly violent situation as having have plunged Hong Kong into its most serious crisis in decades, presenting Chinese leader Xi Jinping with one of his biggest popular challenges and raising fears of direct intervention by Beijing.
The news agency cited Hong Kong legal experts as saying official Chinese government descriptions of some protesters’ actions as terrorism could lead to the use of extensive anti-terror laws and powers against them.
The Chinese state-backed Global Times newspaper has reported that China’s People’s Armed Police have assembled near Hong Kong.
In his tweet Monday, Mr. McConnell said “any violent crackdown would be completely unacceptable.”
“The world is watching,” he said.
Reuters, meanwhile, noted that Mr. Trump, who has been seeking a major deal to correct trade imbalances with China, drew criticism this month after he described the Hong Kong protests as “riots” and said they were a matter for China and Hong Kong to deal with as the territory was part of China.
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