President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he hopes things work out between the Chinese central government and Hong Kong demonstrators protesting changes to an extradition bill.
More than 70 people have been injured as a result of protests over the bill, according to CNN reporting. The proposed law would allow Hong Kong to extradite fugitives to territories where it doesn’t have formal extradition deals, including mainland China, Taiwan and Macau.
“I don’t know what they’re sending them. That’s a demonstration that they’re having. I understand the reason for the demonstration but I’m sure they’ll be able to work it out. I hope they’ll be able to work it out with China,” said Trump, when asked if the protesters are sending a message to China.
Trump said the Hong Kong demonstration he saw was “as big a demonstration as I’ve ever seen.”
“So, I hope it all works out for China and for Hong Kong,” he said.
“I looked today and that really is a million people. A lot of times people talk about, they had 2,000 people but it was really 1,000 or it was 200. I see it all the time,” he said. “But when you look at this demonstration, they said it was a million people. That was a million people.”
Wednesday’s protests come three days after a mostly peaceful march in central Hong Kong. Police estimated 240,000 people attended on Sunday, while organizers put the number at 1.03 million – the latter figure would make it the city’s largest protest since the former British colony was handed back to China in 1997.
Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters in Hong Kong on Wednesday, hours after tens of thousands of mostly young people surrounded the city’s government headquarters and postponed the debate over the controversial bill.
As violent clashes erupted between protesters and the authorities late Wednesday afternoon local time, Hong Kong Police Commissioner Steven Lo Wai-chung said the demonstration was being considered a “riot.”
He added that police had been left with “no choice but to start to use force.”
Although Hong Kong is part of China, it has separate laws that follow the UK system and no capital punishment, unlike mainland China. Many people fear that the proposed extradition law means they could be taken from Hong Kong by Chinese authorities for political or inadvertent business offenses.
Trump’s statement hoping for a resolution between Hong Kong and mainland China comes ahead of a planned meeting between the President and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 in Japan later this month. The two are expected to continue trade talks, but White House adviser Kellyanne Conway suggested the extradition bill may come up.
“Obviously, we want people to live in peace and prosperity and we’re – pretty remarkable to see that many people taking to the streets. When the President meets with President Xi perhaps that will be raised,” Conway told reporters Wednesday morning.
State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus encouraged “all sides to exercise restraint and to refrain from violence.”
“Of course we think these peaceful protests are incredibly important and it’s important for the Hong Kong government to respect these freedom of expressions, respect the right to peacefully assemble,” she said during a press briefing Wednesday.
CNN’s Jennifer Hansler and Julia Hollingsworth contributed to this report.