(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump said he was confident that Hong Kong and China will resolve their differences over a government-proposed extradition law, as thousands of demonstrators clashed with police in Hong Kong streets in hopes of blocking the measure.
"I hope it all works out for China and for Hong Kong," Trump said Wednesday during a meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda at the White House. “I’m sure they’ll be able to work it out.”
Thousands of protesters gathered in Hong Kong earlier Wednesday to rally against a proposal that would allow criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China. They argue the measure would undercut local autonomy and end the financial hub’s status as a safe haven for dissidents fleeing mainland China. The Hong Kong government, led by Chief Executive Carrie Lam, has said the bill is a necessary update to the city’s rules for handling those facing criminal charges elsewhere.
White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said earlier Wednesday that Trump would "perhaps" raise the protests in expected talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the upcoming Group of 20 summit in Japan.
Some U.S. lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have called on Congress to reassess Hong Kong’s special trading status in response to the proposed law.
“The extradition bill imperils the strong U.S.-Hong Kong relationship that has flourished for two decades,” Pelosi, a California Democrat, said in a statement. “If it passes, the Congress has no choice but to reassess whether Hong Kong is ‘sufficiently autonomous.’”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, issued a similar statement saying that Hong Kong residents “rightly view” the extradition bill “as another erosion of the rule of law and tightening of Beijing’s grip on their imperiled autonomy.”
Under the terms of the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992, the U.S. agreed to treat the former British colony as fully autonomous for trade and economic matters even after China took control in 1997. That means Hong Kong is exempt from Trump’s punitive tariffs on China and enjoys U.S. support its participation in international bodies like the World Trade Organization. A move to reconsider Hong Kong’s status could prove a severe blow to Hong Kong’s reputation as an investment destination.
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