US says violence by Hong Kong gangs 'disturbing'; Trump says China's Xi Jinping acted responsibly on protests

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China's President Xi Jinping (left) and Abu Dhabi's crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (right) inspect an honour guard during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, July 22, 2019. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - US President Donald Trump said on Monday (July 22) he believed Chinese President Xi Jinping had acted "very responsibly" with the protests in Hong Kong over an extradition Bill that could see people from the territory sent to China for trial.

"We're working on trade deals right now. We'll see what happens," Mr Trump told reporters at the White House before an unrelated meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Hong Kong has been hit by a series of sometimes violent protests for over two months - its most serious crisis since the city was handed back to China by Britain in 1997 but with democratic freedoms under a "one country, two systems" formula.

A US State Department spokesman said: "We urge all sides to exercise restraint and refrain from violence. It is important for the Hong Kong Government to respect the freedoms of speech and assembly, as guaranteed by the Basic Law.

"Societies are best served when diverse political views are respected and can be freely expressed. The ongoing demonstrations in Hong Kong reflect the sentiment of Hong Kong's people and their broad concerns about the erosion of Hong Kong's autonomy.

The spokesman said reports of violence by criminal gangs were "disturbing".

"Reports of organised violence by criminal gangs against private citizens, and attacks on journalists trying to do their jobs, are particularly disturbing. The continued erosion of Hong Kong's autonomy puts at risk its long-established special status in international affairs."

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

"I think that President Xi of China has acted responsibly, very responsibly," Mr Trump told reporters.

"I hope that President Xi will do the right thing."

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