WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump said on Thursday that a meeting between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Hong Kong’s pro-democracy activists could lead to a "happy" ending to months of protests.
"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!" Trump tweeted.
Trump appeared to be clarifying a tweet he wrote on Wednesday on Xi, trade relations, and Hong Kong, which he ended by saying "Personal meeting?" That was taken by some as Trump offering to meet with the Chinese president.
Trump has been reticent to criticise China’s stance on Hong Kong, indicating he regards the unrest as an internal matter for Beijing, while he focuses on negotiations to resolve a grinding trade war between the United States and China.
"Of course China wants to make a deal. Let them work humanely with Hong Kong first!" Trump tweeted on Wednesday.
But State Department officials and top US lawmakers spoke out in defence of the protesters and warned Beijing to respect the territory’s autonomy.
The call for Xi to meet with activists came as thousands of Chinese military personnel were seen assembling in a sports stadium in Shenzhen, just across the border with Hong Kong.
China’s ambassador to London warned on Thursday that Beijing will not "sit by and watch" and is ready to "quell the unrest swiftly" if the crisis in Hong Kong becomes "uncontrollable".
Meanwhile, China will not "sit by and watch" and is ready to "quell the unrest swiftly" if the crisis in Hong Kong becomes "uncontrollable", China’s ambassador to London said on Thursday.
"If the situation deteriorates further into unrest uncontrollable by the SAR (Special Administrative Region) government, then the central government will not sit by and watch," Liu Xiaoming said in a televised press conference.
"We have enough solutions and enough power to quell the unrest swiftly," he said.
Images taken by AFP earlier on Thursday showed thousands of Chinese military personnel waving red flags and parading at a sports stadium in the city of Shenzhen, just across the border from Hong Kong.
Dozens of armoured personnel carriers and supply trucks were also parked nearby.
"We hope this will end in an orderly way. In the meantime we are fully prepared for the worst," Liu said.
He also protested against "foreign interference" in the Hong Kong protests and urged British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government to handle the issue with "great caution".
"I think some politicians in this country... still regard Hong Kong as part of the British empire," he said.
The Hong Kong protests were sparked by opposition to a plan to allow extraditions to the mainland, but have since morphed into a wider -- sometimes violent -- call for democratic rights.
The movement represents the greatest challenge to Beijing’s authority since the city was handed back by the British in 1997 under a deal that allowed it to keep freedoms that many Hong Kongers feel are being eroded.
China earlier this month warned Britain to stop "meddling" after Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam and emphasised the need for a "fully independent investigation into recent events".
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