President Donald Trump was non-committal Friday about signing bi-partisan legislation supporting pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong.
In a telephone call to "Fox and Friends," Trump seemed torn between supporting human rights and gaining a trade deal with China.
Trump said, "Look we have to stand with Hong Kong." However, he added, "But I'm also standing with President Xi (Jinping). He's a friend of mine. He's an incredible guy."
Trump said the world's two largest economies are "in the process of making the largest trade deal in history and if we could do that that would be great."
The U.S. legislation, consisting of two bills, is aimed at insuring that Hong Kong retains enough autonomy to justify favorable U.S. trading terms. It also threatens sanctions for human rights violations.
In his "Fox and Friends" call, Trump also boasted that he is responsible for preventing a violent incursion from China into Hong Kong to quell the pro-democracy rallies.
"If it weren't for me, Hong Kong would have been obliterated in 14 minutes. He's got a million soldiers, standing outside of Hong Kong," said the president, referring to the Chinese president. Trump also said he had asked the Chinese leader to refrain from any actions that would negatively impact the bilateral trade talks.
The U.S. legislation supporting the Hong Kong activists passed unanimously in the Senate and received only one negative vote in the House. If Trump would veto the legislation, lawmakers can override the president's veto with two-thirds votes in both the Senate and the House.
Hong Kong's anti-government protests began in June in opposition to a proposed bill - now withdrawn - that would have allowed Hong Kong citizens to be extradited to the mainland. The protests quickly turned into wider calls for democracy and opposition to growing Chinese influence. The protests also spread to local universities.
Many Hong Kongers are outraged by the steady erosion of the “one country, two systems” policy that Beijing has used to govern Hong Kong since Britain returned it to China in 1997.