[Aug. 2]. 

We already knew President Trump is uncomfortable making a diplomatic case for American idealism. Yesterday, he showed his inclinations are even worse than that.

Trump doesn’t just fail to proselytize Western values; he directly undermines them.

Even as Trump promotes an absurdly counterproductive trade war against China, he supports the Chinese dictatorship in its crackdown against freedoms China supposedly guaranteed to Hong Kong. Trump doesn’t like China’s business practices, but he isn’t at all bothered by its vicious repression. This juxtaposition is a moral monstrosity.

Here are parts of the first three paragraphs of a Bloomberg report on the president’s comments about frightening signals from communist China: “President Donald Trump labeled recent protests in Hong Kong as ‘riots,’ adopting the language used by Chinese authorities … ‘Something is probably happening with Hong Kong, because when you look at, you know, what’s going on, they’ve had riots for a long period of time,’ Trump told reporters at the White House on Thursday … Trump said he didn’t know what China’s attitude was toward unrest in the former British colony, which is home to tens of thousands of Americans. ‘Somebody said that at some point they’re going to want to stop that,’ Trump said. ‘But that’s between Hong Kong and that’s between China, because Hong Kong is a part of China.’”

This is stunning, and sickening, on multiple fronts.

First, verbiage is important. A “protest” or a “demonstration” is usually seen as legitimate (especially if it doesn’t get violent), whereas a “riot” is illegal and dangerous, and thus by its very nature illegitimate. For Trump to call Hong Kong’s troubles “riots” is to side with the dictators over the citizenry.

Second, Trump’s air of almost utter unconcern, as if the whole thing is rather unimportant, runs directly counter both to ideals of human rights and to American interests. Hong Kong is a bastion not just of relative civil freedoms, but of free trade as well, in ways that bolster the United States. Indeed, somebody like Trump who obsesses over trade deficits should be particularly supportive of keeping Hong Kong free, because Hong Kong is one of the few economic partners with whom our balance of trade runs to a U.S. surplus ($33.8 billion in 2018).

Third, his blanket statement that “Hong Kong is a part of China” undermines decades of American diplomacy…. [The full piece is at this link.]


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