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© Global Look / Stefani Reynolds; Reuters / Adnan Abibi 12
US President Donald Trump is hedging his bets on supporting the Hong Kong 'pro-democracy' rioters, making clear he is not willing to alienate China in the process. Beijing has slammed a US 'pro-rioters' bill as massive overreach.

"We have to stand with Hong Kong, but I'm also standing with President Xi. He's my friend," Trump declared on Friday morning, in response to questions about whether he would sign the bills that both chambers of Congress approved unanimously. The move would satisfy both parties in Washington, but Beijing has warned it will halt all trade talks if the bill becomes law.

"I stand with Hong Kong, I stand with freedom, I stand with all of the things that I want to do, but we are also in the process of making the largest trade deals in history," Trump continued, making clear there was more on the table than Congress' "pro-democracy" virtue-signaling.

However, that didn't stop him from taking credit for "saving" the Hong Kong protesters: "If it weren't for me, Hong Kong would have been obliterated in 14 minutes." Chinese President Xi Jinping, Trump said, "has a million soldiers standing outside of Hong Kong," who "are not going only because I asked him 'Please don't do that...it will have a tremendous negative impact on the trade deal.'"


Comment: Obviously Trump didn't stop Hong Kong from being obliterated by Xi's military.


The bills call for a yearly assessment of the status of Hong Kong's special autonomy, with sanctions imposed as penalties upon anyone (in China) deemed to be violating them, and seeks to prevent the US from exporting crowd-control weapons to Hong Kong police. The leaders of Hong Kong's increasingly violent protests even flew to Washington to lobby Congress, and - given that protest imagery has been largely geared toward the US gaze, with American flags on display everywhere in Hong Kong - it wasn't a very tough sell.

China, however, has threatened to "take strong opposing measures," warning the US will "bear all the consequences" for this "serious violation of international law." By backing the rioters, who have set pro-Chinese Hong Kong residents on fire and destroyed university campuses, Beijing says the US is destroying not only Sino-US relations, but also US business interests in Hong Kong.

Early reactions to Trump's attempt to play both sides were less than positive, with pundits accusing him of "cozying up to the dictator in China."

Others chastised Trump for turning away from the world, or compared the president's disregard for the Hong Kong protesters to his lack of sympathy for the Kurds in Syria.

And several mocked Trump's "heroism" at single-handedly saving the protesters from Xi's "weirdly specific" 14-minute obliteration.