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Trump says China should treat Hong Kong 'humanely' before trade deal can be agreed

File photo: US President Donald Trump. Photograph:( Reuters )

Reuters Washington, United States Aug 15, 2019, 03.15 PM (IST)

President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that China wants to make a trade deal but it should treat Hong Kong "humanely" first, explicitly tying a trade agreement to a peaceful resolution of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

"Of course China wants to make a deal. Let them work humanely with Hong Kong first!" Trump said on Twitter.

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"I have ZERO doubt that if President Xi (Jinping) wants to quickly and humanely solve the Hong Kong problem, he can do it. Personal meeting?" Trump said.

A US State Department spokeswoman said earlier on Wednesday that the United States was "deeply concerned" about Chinese paramilitary movement along the Hong Kong border.

The State Department's expression of concern came after senior US lawmakers from both the Democratic and Republican parties called on Trump to take a tougher line with China as worries grew over a possible Chinese intervention.

Another US official said Beijing had stationed large numbers of paramilitary People's Armed Police (PAP) "near and further out from Hong Kong," in response to weeks of street protests in the territory, but said there had been no sign they were moving towards the border.

Watch: Violent clashes continue in Hong Kong

The number of personnel was "in the thousands," said the official, who did not want to be identified.

"They have amped up training and made it all pretty visible," he said, but added, "There are no recent indicators that they are preparing to deploy."

China's state-run Global Times media outlet reported on Monday that People's Armed Police had been assembling in Shenzhen, a city bordering Hong Kong, "in advance of apparent large-scale exercises."

It cited video it had obtained showing numerous armoured personnel carriers (APCs), trucks and other vehicles on expressways heading in the direction of Shenzhen over the weekend. It noted that the role of the PAP was "dealing with rebellions, riots, serious violent and illegal incidents, terrorist attacks and other social security incidents."

Satellite images made available to Reuters on Wednesday from Maxar Technologies showed dozens of vehicles, including what appeared to be APCs, at the Shenzhen Bay Sports Centre across the harbour from Hong Kong.

On Tuesday, US President Donald Trump cited American intelligence as saying that China was moving troops to its border with Hong Kong, and urged calm as clashes continued between protesters and authorities in the former British colony.

Trump, who has been seeking a major deal to correct trade imbalances with China, has faced criticism from Congress and elsewhere for not taking a stronger public line on Hong Kong and for his characterization of the protests earlier this month as "riots" that were a matter for China to deal with.

Story highlights

A US State Department spokeswoman said earlier on Wednesday that the United States was 'deeply concerned' about Chinese paramilitary movement along the Hong Kong border.