President Trump on Tuesday said that he's hopeful that escalating clashes between anti-government protesters and police forces in Hong Kong can be resolved, but offered no direct warning to China amid signs that Beijing is preparing to crack down on demonstrators.
"The Hong Kong thing is a very tough situation, very tough," Trump told reporters as he boarded Air Force One for a trip to Pennsylvania. "We’ll see what happens, but I’m sure it’ll work out. I hope it works out for everybody — including China, by the way. I hope it works out for everybody."
Asked about concerns that China appeared to be gathering military personnel and threatening to crack down on demonstrators in the territory, Trump reiterated he is optimistic that all sides will reach a satisfactory conclusion.
"I hope it works out for liberty, I hope it works out for everybody, including China," he said. "I hope it works out peacefully. I hope nobody gets hurt. I hope nobody gets killed."
As Trump prepared to land in Pittsburgh, he tweeted that he was informed the Chinese government is moving troops to the Hong Kong border and urged everyone to be "calm and safe."
Trump also claimed in a tweet that he and the United States are being blamed for the ongoing unrest, adding that he "can't imagine why." The Chinese government has attempted to dismiss the widespread demonstrations as a "creation" of the U.S.
While credible accounts have not tied Trump to the protests, global watchdogs have expressed concerns that the president's rhetoric on the issue and his lack of warnings to China may be giving Beijing a green light to take more severe actions against the protesters.
The demonstrations began weeks ago 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. Multiple reports indicated that 45 people were injured in protests over the weekend, and dozens remains hospitalized.
The United Nations' top human rights official has condemned the violence surrounding the protests and urged both sides to settle the dispute.
The mass protests have also forced the Hong Kong airport to suspend flights for two consecutive days.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday warned China against attempting to "encroach on their autonomy and freedom."
“Any violent crackdown would be completely unacceptable," he said in a statement. "The world is watching.”
The president's tepid handling of the Hong Kong protest comes as he seeks to work through a trade war with China.
The Trump administration announced earlier Tuesday it would delay planned tariffs on numerous Chinese goods as anxieties deepen over the potential for a global economic recession.