(CBS News) — President Trump claimed that he is preventing Hong Kong from being “obliterated” by China, saying that he told Chinese President Xi Jinping not to send soldiers into Hong Kong because it would affect ongoing trade negotiations with the U.S.
“If it weren’t for me, Hong Kong would’ve been obliterated in 14 minutes,” Trump said in a wide-ranging interview with “Fox & Friends” on Friday morning. He added that Xi has “got a million soldiers standing outside of Hong Kong that aren’t going in only because I asked him, ‘Please don’t do that, it’s going to make a tremendous negative impact on the trade deal.'”
Hong Kong has been embroiled in months of, as pro-democracy demonstrators demand the right to elect their own leaders without interference from Beijing. After more than 150 years as a British colony, Hong Kong was returned to Chinese control in 1997, but many Hong Kong residents believe that the partial autonomy granted by China does not provide them with enough freedoms.
Mr. Trump also declined to say in his interview whether he would sign bills passed by Congress which would mandate sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials who carry out human rights abuses against protesters. The bill also requires an annual review of the favorable trade status that Washington grants Hong Kong. Chinese officials have urged Mr. Trump to.
“We have to stand with Hong Kong, but I’m also standing with President Xi,” Mr. Trump said in the interview, explaining that it was important to negotiate a trade deal. A Chinese official said Thursday that trade talks between the two countries.
Mr. Trump’s claim that he is preventing further violence in Hong Kong is the first time that he has publicly said that he has intervened in the situation.
In August, Mr. Trump suggested on Twitter that Xi could end the conflict in Hong Kong “humanely.”
“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?” Mr. Trump wrote.
Mr. Trump added in a subsequent tweet: “If President Xi would meet directly and personally with the protesters, there would be a happy and enlightened ending to the Hong Kong problem. I have no doubt!”