China threatened retaliation against Washington yesterday after United States President Donald Trump signed legislation supporting Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters, just as the world’s top two economies edge towards a trade truce.
Activists in the crisis-hit city hailed the move, saying it would help them pile pressure on Beijing-backed local authorities, and staged a “Thanksgiving” rally saluting Trump and US lawmakers.
Trump signed the legislation under heavy pressure from Congress, where it attracted rare bipartisan support, and in a statement spoke of his “respect” for Chinese President Xi Jinping, calling for both sides to “amicably settle their differences”.
But Beijing lashed out furiously, summoning the US ambassador, threatening unspecified “firm countermeasures” and warning Washington not to implement the legislation. “The nature of this is extremely abominable, and harbours absolutely sinister intentions,” the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement.
“China strongly urges the US side to correct mistakes and change course,” the ministry added later. In Hong Kong, the government expressed “extreme regret” after Trump signed the legislation requiring an annual review of freedoms in Hong Kong and banning the sale of crowd control equipment.
“The two acts are obviously interfering in Hong Kong’s internal affairs,” the city government said in a statement, warning the move would “send the wrong message to the protesters”. Hong Kongers have protested in huge numbers over the last six months, fuelled by years of growing fears that authoritarian China is stamping out the city’s liberties. Yesterday evening, several thousand people attended an evening Thanksgiving rally, waving US flags as the American national anthem played. Keith Fong, president of Baptist University students union, told AFP he was grateful to Trump for signing the legislation.