Trump hopes 'tricky' Hong Kong situation works out 'for liberty'

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U.S. President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he boards Air Force One for travel to Pennsylvania from Morristown Municipal Airport in Morristown, New Jersey, U.S. August 13, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

MORRISTOWN, N.J. (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday the situation in Hong Kong was tricky, but he hoped it would work out for everybody, including China, and “for liberty” without anyone getting hurt or killed.

“The Hong Kong thing is a very tough situation – very tough,” Trump told reporters during a visit to Morristown, New Jersey. “We’ll see what happens.”

“It’s a very tricky situation. I think it will work out and I hope it works out, for liberty. I hope it works out for everybody, including China. I hope it works out peacefully. I hope nobody gets hurt. I hope nobody gets killed,” Trump said.

Demonstrators protesting a perceived erosion of civil liberties under Chinese rule clashed with police at Hong Kong’s international airport late on Tuesday, plunging the former British colony deeper into turmoil after 10 weeks of increasingly violent clashes.

The protests present Chinese President Xi Jinping with one of his biggest challenges and Hong Kong legal experts say Beijing might be paving the way to use anti-terrorism laws to try to quell the demonstrations.

Trump, who has been seeking a major deal to correct trade imbalances with China, drew criticism this month after he described the Hong Kong protests as “riots,” and said they were a matter for China and Hong Kong to deal with as the territory was part of China.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned China on Monday that any violent crackdown on protests in Hong Kong would be “completely unacceptable,” while Trump administration officials urged all sides to refrain from violence.

Reporting by Jeff Mason and David Brunnstrom, editing by G Crosse