China is facing growing U.S. pressure to show restraint during mass pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, with the issue to be raised in high-level bilateral talks, and a prominent U.S. lawmaker has expressed “grave concerns” over the troubles.
A day after the United States backed calls by thousands of protesters for greater autonomy in selecting candidates for Hong Kong’s chief executive, U.S. officials said Secretary of State John Kerry would discuss the issue with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi when the two meet in Washington on Wednesday.
“I expect it will come up,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters, referring to the Hong Kong protests. “It is in the news. It is an issue we are concerned about and focused on.”
The protesters, mostly students, are demanding full democracy and have called on chief executive Leung Chun-ying to step down after Beijing ruled a month ago that it would vet candidates wishing to run for Hong Kong’s leadership in 2017.
The students have threatened to escalate action over the next few days.
Psaki said Kerry was expected to say that the Hong Kong chief executive’s legitimacy would be enhanced if people have a genuine choice of candidates, a position expressed by the White House on Monday that went beyond the administration’s previous broad calls for greater democracy.
“That certainly is our position,” Psaki said, adding that it had been communicated to China.
The United States has been carefully calibrating its response to the demonstrations, voicing support for non-violent protests, while signaling it has little interest in seeing them escalate and risk a harsher crackdown by Chinese authorities.