Updated Aug 15, 2019

Trump appears to invite China's Xi to meet with him on Hong Kong chaos

China's President Xi Jinping and President Donald Trump at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. Photo: Patrik Stollarz/AFP/Getty Images

President Donald Trump appeared to invite Chinese President Xi Jingping via a Twitter post Wednesday for a personal meeting to discuss the turmoil in Hong Kong following 10 weeks of pro-democracy protests.

Our thought bubble, per Axios' Dave Lawler: Trump has been criticized for taking a hands-off approach to the situation in Hong Kong, which some claim is effectively a green light for Xi to crack down on protesers. However, his offer to get directly involved is unlikely to be received warmly by China, which contends, as Trump had previously said, that this is a purely internal matter.

The big picture: Some Democrats have called out Trump for his unorthodox approach to foreign policy, posting comments on Twitter rather than turning to the conventional diplomatic options. Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg told MSNBC on Tuesday, "Well he's already made it about himself."

"And he's on Twitter when he should probably be in the Situation Room trying to figure out how the U.S. could in some way be an effective voice for stability and de-escalation over there before this becomes an even bigger regional security problem, and before people standing up for their values just as we would come to harm."

Between the lines: While Trump has not spoken out about the increasingly brutal response from authorities to the Hong Kong protests, his National Security Adviser John Bolton has taken a more assertive stance. He told Voice of America in an interview published Wednesday that the Chinese "have to look very carefully" at the steps they take over the protests in the former British colony.

  • Bolton said people remember the 1989 student-led protests in Beijing that resulted in the Tiananmen Square massacre. "It would be a big mistake to create a new memory like that in Hong Kong," he said.
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has praised Hong Kongers for standing up to the Chinese government.

The other side: Chinese Foreign Ministry reacted with outrage to the statements by McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — who's made a series of comments defending the pro-democracy protests and urging Hong Kong leaders to "listen and act on their legitimate grievances." A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman issued a statement, translated by CNBC:

"The U.S. denied on many occasions its involvement in the ongoing violent incidents in Hong Kong. However, the comments from those members of the U.S. Congress have provided the world with new and powerful evidence on the country’s involvement. ...
"They even incited the Hong Kong residents to engage in confrontation with the (special administrative region) government and the central government. How anxious are they to instigate and see chaos!"
— Chinese Foreign Ministry statement

Go deeper: Hong Kong airport protests: What you need to know

Editor's note: This article has been updated with comments from Bolton, McConnell, Pelosi, Buttigieg and Chinese officials.

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