President Trump's national security adviser on Wednesday warned the Chinese government against any potential crackdown on protesters in Hong Kong amid escalating clashes between demonstrators and police forces in the region.
"The Chinese have to look very carefully at the steps they take because people in America remember Tiananmen Square," John Bolton told Voice of America's Greta Van Susteren, referencing the 1989 student-led protests in China.
"They remember the picture of the man standing in front of the line of tanks," he continued. "They remember the Statue of Liberty, they remember the voices of the Chinese people asking for freedom and democracy, and they remember the repression of the Chinese government in 1989.
"It would be a big mistake to create a new memory like that in Hong Kong," he added.
Bolton's warning comes as the Chinese government gathered military personnel and equipment near Hong Kong, where mass protests have persisted for weeks.
The demonstrations began in response to a since-suspended bill that would allow some citizens to be extradited to China. The protests have grown increasingly tense and turned violent at times, with photos and videos of bloodied protesters circulating on social media following clashes with armed riot police.
President Trump has largely avoided weighing in directly on the matter. He said Tuesday that he's hopeful the tensions can be resolved peacefully, but offered no direct warning to China about any potential crackdown on protesters.
In a tweet Wednesday evening, he said he would wait to reach a trade deal with China while the government first dealt "humanely" with the protests in Hong Kong.
The president's reluctance to speak out against Beijing stands in contrast with Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress who have issued statements in support of the protesters.
Bolton said Wednesday that any sign of aggression from the Chinese government would prompt blowback from the U.S. Congress.
"The mood in Congress is very volatile at this point and a misstep by the Chinese government, I think, would cause an explosion on Capitol Hill," he said.