• Foreign governments are offering unwanted and even menacing advice to Beijing, but the key to ending unrest lies here not on the mainland
US President Donald Trump’s comments are unwelcome; they reveal ignorance and an attempt to benefit from Hong Kong’s predicament. Photo: Reuters

Foreign governments have not been shy about commenting on events in Hong Kong. A number have called for calm and dialogue between authorities and protesters. United States President Donald Trump went a step further, though, not only advising President Xi Jinping on what he should do about the crisis, but linking the city's troubles with his country's trade war with China. The American leader's comments are unwelcome; they reveal ignorance and an attempt to benefit from Hong Kong's predicament.

'Tiananmen Square' crackdown in Hong Kong would harm trade talks, Trump says

Trump at first steered clear of commenting, contending resolution was for Beijing and Hong Kong to work out. But he changed course last week, giving opinions on social media and at the weekend telling journalists that trade talks with China would be hampered should it use violent means to crack down on the protests, referring to events in and around Tiananmen Square in 1989. Earlier, he had suggested on Twitter that if Xi personally met protesters, "there would be a happy and enlightened ending to the Hong Kong problem". The US leader does not understand that Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor holds the key to resolving the crisis. Nor, by seeing the protests as a bargaining chip, does he show genuine concern for Hong Kong and its people.

Foreign governments, with companies and citizens in Hong Kong, are obviously keen that the city is safe and its business environment remains robust. Britain, Germany, France, Canada and the European Union are among those to express concern. Beijing considers political comment as interference in internal affairs; the Chinese embassy in Ottawa warned Canada against meddling.

The foreign ministry and China's ambassador to Britain, Liu Xiaoming, did the same with British politicians, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab among them. Raab had phoned Lam, a move that Beijing criticised as "wrong". Britain, as the former colonial power and signatory with Beijing to agreements on the city's return to Chinese sovereignty, still considers it has a legal and moral obligation to monitor and raise concerns. But Beijing has no obligation to pay attention. As for Trump's messages: they are confusing, wrong and insulting.

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