DONALD Trump warned China to work “humanely” with Hong Kong if it wants a trade deal and invited President Xi for a meeting via Twitter.
The US President, who is embroiled in a trade war with China, has been criticised for not taking a tougher line with Beijing over Hong Kong.
But he has now urged a peaceful solution after US officials voiced concern over reports of Chinese paramilitary forces gathering near Hong Kong.
“I know President Xi of China very well. He is a great leader who very much has the respect of his people,” Trump tweeted.
“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.”
Trump also used Twitter to suggest a personal meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping to help resolve the crisis.
He said that if China wants a deal, it will have to “work humanely with Hong Kong first”.
Ten weeks of increasingly violent clashes between police and protesters have plunged the city into its worst crisis since it reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
Chaos erupted at Hong Kong’s airport on Tuesday evening as riot police clashed with protesters who continued to block security gates.
Protesters are demanding greater democratic freedoms and opposing Chinese influence in the territory.
Trump has faced mounting criticism from Congress for not taking a stronger public line with China over Hong Kong.
He also described the protests earlier this month as “riots” that were a matter for China to deal with.
His tougher stance came after the US State Department warned that continued erosion of the Hong Kong’s autonomy put at risk the preferential status it enjoys under US law.
Reports claim there was an internal debate within the White House over whether the US was looking too compliant as the Chinese appeared to be preparing for a crackdown.
A source familiar with the deliberations said while an even-handed approach was smart it was not the right signal to send in this case.
FREEDOM OF SPEECH UNDER THREAT
Earlier, a State Department spokeswoman said it was important for the Hong Kong government to respect “freedoms of speech and peaceful assembly”.
The spokesman added Beijing must adhere to its commitments to allow Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy.
She said the protests reflected “broad and legitimate concerns about the erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy.”
“The continued erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy puts at risk its long-established special status in international affairs,” she said.
A 1992 US law affords Hong Kong preferential treatment in matters of trade and economics compared with China.
Areas of special treatment include visas, law enforcement and investment.
Sinister footage released by Chinese state media shows hundreds of armoured police vehicles gathering in a city on the Hong Kong border.
Convoys can be seen amassing in the city of Shenzhen, the only link between Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland.
This has sparked fears that Chinese forces want to cross the border and crush protests still escalating in the territory.
A US official said Beijing had stationed large numbers of paramilitary People’s Armed Police (PAP) “near and further out from Hong Kong”.
‘THOUSANDS’ OF SOLDIERS
The number of personnel was “in the thousands,” said the official, who did not want to be identified, and the aim appeared to be to intimidate the protesters.
He said protests had yet to reach a level that would compel Beijing to send them in. “I don’t think they’ve reached any tipping points,” the official said.
“They have amped up training and made it all pretty visible,” he said, but added: “There are no recent indicators that they are preparing to deploy.”
China’s state-run Global Times said video shows armoured personnel carriers (APCs), trucks and other vehicles on expressways heading in the direction of Shenzhen over the weekend.
It noted that the role of the PAP was “dealing with rebellions, riots, serious violent and illegal incidents, terrorist attacks and other social security incidents.”
Satellite images from Maxar Technologies showed dozens of vehicles, including what appeared to be APCs, at the Shenzhen Bay Sports Centre across the harbour from Hong Kong.
On Tuesday Trump cited American intelligence as saying that China was moving troops to its border with the former British colony.
He urged calm as clashes continued between protesters and authorities.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell warned China on Monday that any violent crackdown on protests in Hong Kong would be “completely unacceptable.”
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