August 20, 2019
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Trump praises Xi for showing restraint with Hong Kong protests

Washington, Jul 22 (efe-epa).- President Donald Trump said Monday that his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, had shown restraint in the face of the mass protests in Hong Kong against a controversial extradition bill that critics contend would allow Beijing to target dissidents and human rights activists.

"I think that President Xi of China has acted responsibly, very responsibly," Trump told reporters at the White House, where he welcomed Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Hong Kong has been rocked by anti-government protests for the past seven weeks since the city's local leader, Carrie Lam, announced plans for new extradition rules that would make it easier to send residents to China for trial.

Although the bill has since been scrapped, weekly rallies have morphed into a catch-all pro-democracy movement.

On Sunday, tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Hong Kong to call for reforms.

The former British colony still retains a degree of independence from Beijing, which regained sovereignty over Hong Kong in 1997, a system that residents want to maintain.

Under the terms of the handover deal between London and Beijing, this political system - which includes certain freedoms not recognized in mainland China - must be preserved until 2047.

"I know that that's a very important situation for President Xi ... China could stop them if they wanted," Trump said.

Supporters said the extradition bill proposed by Lam would have clarified a murky judicial area, since there is currently no legal process for extradition among Hong Kong, mainland China and Taiwan.

Analysts, however, agreed that China was trying to speed up the process of absorbing the former British colony, a move opposed by a large percentage of Hong Kong's people.

Trump also addressed the ongoing trade war between the United States and China.

"We're working on trade deals right now. We'll see what happens," Trump said.

In late June, Trump and Xi met on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Japan and agreed to a truce in the trade war, with Washington holding off on imposing new tariffs on China and allowing US companies to sell products to tech giant Huawei.

The two leaders agreed during their meeting in Osaka to resume trade negotiations amid Washington's decision to not slap tariffs on all Chinese imports.

In May, Trump imposed a 25 percent tariff on Chinese imports worth $200 billion in response to the lack of progress in reaching a trade deal with Beijing.

China, for its part, retaliated by slapping tariffs on US imports worth $60 billion.

Trump later threatened to impose tariffs ranging from 10 percent to 25 percent on another $325 billion of Chinese imports, causing concern in financial markets and the business community due to the possible effect on consumer spending, which accounts for about two-thirds of US economic activity.

While additional tariffs are off the table for now, the United States will maintain the tariffs imposed on a total of $250 billion in Chinese goods, while Beijing will continue to slap tariffs on US imports totaling $110 billion.

In 2018, the United States posted a trade deficit of $419 billion with China due, largely, to the fact that US exports to Asia's largest economy totaled just $120 billion, while American imports from China reached $540 billion. EFE

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