President Trump Holds News Conference On Sanctions Over China's Actions In Hong Kong

Jul 14, 2020
Originally published on July 14, 2020 11:24 pm
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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

President Trump made some incendiary comments today about race and policing. They came during a TV interview with CBS News. He was asked why African Americans are dying at the hands of police officers, and Trump angrily dismissed the question. He said more white people are killed by police. And then he spoke at a news event which was focused on China. That's one of his top foreign policy priorities. NPR's John Ruwitch has spent a lot of time reporting about China.

Hey, John.

JOHN RUWITCH, BYLINE: Good afternoon.

CHANG: Good afternoon. But first, we're going to go and talk to your colleague, NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez.

Hey, Franco.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Hey.

CHANG: Hey. So the president has been under pressure, obviously, to respond to all the emotion and outrage across the country after George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis. Tell us what President Trump said today.

ORDOÑEZ: Well, he was asked about Floyd's death, which he and his administration have largely tried to cast as the actions of a few bad apples. CBS asked why so many Black people are killed by police. And here is how the president responded.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And so are white people. So are white people. What a terrible question to ask. So are white people - more white people, by the way; more white people.

ORDOÑEZ: You know, the president's making clear that he does not accept the views of many Americans who are concerned about racial bias in policing. You know, it's really extraordinary, given the weeks of protests across the country - polling shows that racial injustice is a top concern for voters ahead of the November election. And many disapprove of the path the president has taken.

Now, while technically he is correct that more whites have died from police shooting, according to a database of police shootings kept by The Washington Post - but, you know, in terms of the rate, it's far higher for African American people, more than twice as high per capita. And I'll just also note that most of the white people who are shot by police were armed.

CHANG: President Trump also made some comments about the Confederate flag. NASCAR recently banned the Confederate flag at its events. Tell us about his comments.

ORDOÑEZ: President Trump described the flag as a freedom of speech issue. He said he supports freedom of speech. And he said it's that simple. And he said he knew people who like the Confederate flag and that they, at least, are not thinking of slavery.

CHANG: OK. So all of this was followed by an event in the Rose Garden about China. The president signed into law a bill that takes aim at China's recent actions in Hong Kong. And now we're going to turn to John Ruwitch.

John, help us understand this. Why did this bill come about? And why did Trump sign it now?

RUWITCH: Sure. This is a reaction to China imposing a sweeping national security law in Hong Kong at the start of the month. The Chinese government says that the national security law it imposed is necessary to fight subversion, terrorism, secession and collusion. But outside China, it's been pretty widely seen as a violation of Beijing's promises when it regained control over Hong Kong in 1997, one of those promises being that Hong Kong would have a high degree of autonomy for 50 years. It's also seen as undermining human rights in the territory.

The bill had strong bipartisan support in Congress. It passed the House without objection on July 1 and then unanimously in the Senate the next day. And with the U.S. election coming up in less than four months, Trump tried to highlight his fight with China and draw contrast with his Democratic rival Joe Biden. And he said Biden's entire career has been a gift to the Chinese Communist Party.

CHANG: And what does this bill specifically do?

RUWITCH: The law mandates sanctions on any foreign person or entity that, quote, "materially contributed" to China's failure to, basically, comply with the promises it made when it took over Hong Kong. Critics - and the Trump administration is included there - say that Beijing has diluted Hong Kong's autonomy. Basically, the law requires the president to sanction people and entities who the government decides have violated the promises as well as foreign financial institutions that do business with these people. Also, today Trump signed an executive order that ends the special privileges that Hong Kong has in its relationship with the U.S., including trade. So from the U.S. perspective, it will be treated like any other Chinese city going forward.

CHANG: OK. So this could involve potentially a number of Chinese officials, right? How do you think China's going to react to this?

RUWITCH: Well, on your first question, I think yes, depending on how it's interpreted and enforced, it could potentially involve many Chinese officials. Beijing won't be happy about this. China says that Hong Kong and Hong Kong's affairs are strictly an internal matter. And it says that foreign governments have no business interfering. We're likely to hear them repeat those comments in the coming hours and potentially to take reciprocal measures against the U.S. for this.

CHANG: All right. That is NPR international correspondent John Ruwitch telling us about a bill just signed into law to deal with how China has been responding to what is happening in Hong Kong. We also heard from NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez on Trump's comments today about race and policing.

Thanks to both of you.

RUWITCH: Thank you so much.

ORDOÑEZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.