WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump is striking an optimistic tone on reaching a trade deal with China, despite Beijing's opposition to a law Trump recently signed that expresses support for pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong.
"The Chinese want to make a deal. We'll see what happens," the president told reporters Monday, as he departed the White House for the NATO summit in London.
The U.S. leader signed the “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act” last week, prompting stern protests from China.
The trade deal between the U.S. and China has stalled as a result, according to the news website Axios.
The news site quotes a source close to Trump's negotiating team as saying the trade talks were "now stalled" because of the legislation, and time was needed to allow Chinese President Xi Jinping's "domestic politics to calm."
China says it is also taking other steps to retaliate against what it sees as U.S. support for Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Monday it is slapping sanctions on U.S.-based non-governmental organizations that have acted "badly" during the recent protests in Hong Kong. NGOs affected by the sanctions include Human Rights Watch, the National Endowment for Democracy, and Freedom House.
China also announced Monday that it "has decided to suspend reviewing the applications for U.S. warships to go to Hong Kong for (rest and) recuperation as of today."
A foreign spokeswoman said, "China urges the United States to correct its mistakes, stop any deeds and acts of interference in Hong Kong affairs and China's internal affairs."
Senior U.S. officials have repeatedly called on the Chinese government to honor its promises to the Hong Kong people who say they want the freedoms and liberties that they have been promised in the Sino-British Joint Declaration, a U.N.-registered treaty.
“The United States stands firmly in support of asking the Chinese leadership to honor that commitment, asking everyone involved in the political process there to do so without violence, and to find a resolution to this that honors the one country two systems policy that the Chinese leadership signed up for,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told an audience Monday at the University of Louisville in Kentucky.
In another development, Reuters reports that hundreds of Hong Kong office workers came together during their lunch break Monday, the first in a week of lunchtime protests to show their support for pro-democracy politicians who were handed a resounding victory in district polls last week.
Protests erupted in Hong Kong in June over the local government's plans to allow some criminal suspects to be extradited to the Chinese mainland.
Hong Kong officials withdrew the bill in September, but the street protests have continued, with the demonstrators fearing Beijing is preparing to water down Hong Kong's democracy and autonomy nearly 30 years before the former British colony's "special status" expires.