China Blocks U.S. Navy Port Calls in Hong Kong Amidst Protests

Anti-extradition bill protest, June 12, Hong Kong (Studio Incendo)

By The Maritime Executive 08-15-2019 06:39:14

Amidst a deepening political crisis in Hong Kong, China has decided to deny port call requests by two U.S. warships which were scheduled to visit the city in the coming weeks. The cruiser USS Lake Erie was expected to call Hong Kong in September and the amphib USS Green Bay was slated to arrive on August 17. 

"The US Navy has a long track record of successful port visits to Hong Kong and we expect them to continue. We refer you to the Chinese Government for further information about why they denied the request," Pacific Fleet spokesman Cmdr. Nate Christensen told CNN Tuesday. 

For months, tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong have marched in the streets in response to perceived threats to the city's autonomy. Hong Kong is part of China, but it enjoys an additional measure of political freedom due to the historical circumstances of its status as a former British territory. 

Earlier this month, China's government ordered an anti-riot drill involving 12,000 military police personnel, a signal of its readiness to enter Hong Kong and implement a forceful crackdown to end the protests. On Wednesday, units of the People's Armed Police (PAP) anti-riot force were observed in Shenzhen, just a few miles from Hong Kong. 

Beijing accuses the United States of supporting the protest movement, citing a recent meeting between an American diplomat in Hong Kong and prominent members of the city's pro-democracy movement. This has been a prominent theme in the government's narrative about the protests; among other headlines Thursday, government-controlled outlet Global Times asserted that it was "Futile for Washington to play [the] Hong Kong card" and that "Hong Kong's future lies with China, not the West."

On Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump encouraged his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, to meet with the protesters in order to secure "a happy and enlightened ending to the Hong Kong problem." Trump also appeared to connect the nature of China's response in Hong Kong with ongoing transpacific trade negotiations. "Of course China wants to make a deal. Let them work humanely with Hong Kong first!" he said in a Twitter message.