President Barack Obama has denied the U.S. have had any involvement in the ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong but requested the Chinese government listen to the people of Hong Kong.
In a news conference with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Wednesday, President Obama said: "On the issue of Hong Kong, which did come up in our conversations, I was unequivocal in saying to President Xi that the United States had no involvement in fostering the protests that took place there."
He said that although he advised Xi on the U.S. stance on human rights and urged the leader to allow fair and transparent elections in Hong Kong that are "reflective of the opinions of the people there."
Obama said the U.S. government will always speak out on the right for people to express their views but "these issues are ultimately for the people of Hong Kong and people of China to decide."
The U.S. has long faced criticism for engaging with China despite its troubling human rights record. Obama said he emphasized that universal freedoms are essential "whether it is in New York or Paris or Hong Kong" — a nod to the protests in the special administrative region of China.
Following an intense two days of talks, the two leaders on Wednesday unveiled an array of agreements on climate change, military cooperation and trade as they sought to overcome persistent tensions between the world's two largest economies.
After more than six weeks, Hong Kong's government have urged protesters who are fighting for a democratic election in 2017 to leave the main rally sites aspolice were authorized on Monday to clear the barricades across the city. The operation is set to begin in the next few days, local media has reported, with fears of violence erupting as protesters stand their ground.
U.S. officials also hold new concerns over the potential for a crackdown in Hong Kong and are warily watching Beijing strengthen ties with Moscow as the West distances itself from Russia.
Additional reporting by The Associated Press
Tags: Barack Obama, HONG KONG, HONG KONG PROTESTS, US & World, WORLD