By AMY GUNIA / HONG KONG
August 15, 2019

President Donald Trump on Wednesday appeared to tie a peaceful resolution of the unrest gripping Hong Kong to a trade deal with the Chinese government, the same day the State Department raised concerns about a possible armed intervention in Hong Kong by Beijing.

A State Department spokeswoman cited by Reuters said that the U.S. was “deeply concerned” by reports of Chinese paramilitary forces amassing at the Hong Kong border. The department warned that Beijing’s encroachment threatened Hong Kong’s special status with the U.S. accorded by a 1992 law, which affords the enclave preferential treatment in areas like trade.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee also spoke out on Wednesday. “We are concerned that China would consider again brutally putting down peaceful protests,” it said in a statement, making apparent reference to the 1989 massacre of students and workers in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. “We urge China to avoid making such a mistake, which would be met with universal condemnation and swift consequences.”

In a Twitter thread about the trade war, Trump said that Beijing would need to solve issues in Hong Kong “humanely.” He also invited Chinese President Xi Jinping to meet him to discuss the matter.

“Of course China wants to make a deal! Let them work humanely with Hong Kong first!” he said on Twitter. “I have ZERO doubt that if President Xi wants to quickly and humanely solve the Hong Kong problem, he can do it. Personal meeting?”

Read More: Chinese Military Video Seen as a Thinly Veiled Warning to Hong Kong

Trump has largely remained neutral on the situation in Hong Kong, saying earlier that he hoped Beijing and Hong Kong could “work it out.” But senior U.S. lawmakers have called on the president to make it clear to the Chinese government that a crackdown in Hong Kong would have serious consequences, reports Reuters.

The State Department has meanwhile issued a travel warning, advising travelers to exercise “increased caution in Hong Kong due to civil unrest.” Hundreds of flights were cancelled Monday and Tuesday as protesters occupied the city’s airport, one of the world’s busiest.

The Hong Kong protests began in early June as a series of peaceful marches against a now suspended law that would have allowed the Chinese government to extradite fugitives from the former British colony for the first time. But they have turned into a campaign for greater political freedom and even a rejection of Chinese sovereignty.

A march organized by the Civil Human Rights Front, a coalition of pro-democracy groups, has been announced for the weekend. It comes in the wake of the deployment of thousands of paramilitary People’s Armed Police near the China-Hong Kong border.

Write to Amy Gunia at amy.gunia@time.com.

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