U.S. President Barack Obama treaded carefully Monday in remarks on pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong in advance of Tuesday's meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in China. The president does not want to anger Beijing by showing too much support for the demonstrations.
“Our primary message has been to make sure that violence is avoided as the people of Hong Kong try to sort through what the next phase is of their relationship to the mainland,” Obama said Monday during a joint meeting with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who is also in China for the APEC summit. “There are certain things that the United States believes. We believe in freedom of speech. We believe in freedom of association. We believe in openness in government as befitting our traditions and our way of life.”
The APEC summit, an economic forum for the 21 countries that are APEC members, kicked off Sunday and runs until Wednesday.
For much of his three-day trip, Obama won’t have access to the Chinese public, to the dismay of the White House.
The president is not scheduled to hold any televised interviews, and the Chinese media won’t be broadcasting any speeches he makes, the New York Times reported. There also won’t be town-hall-style meetings like those in which Obama participated during his first visit to China in 2009. The event, which was ignored on Chinese television, wasn’t streamed online either and Chinese officials tried to tone down the amount of public participation.
But Obama is scheduled to take part in an interview with Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, the Times reported. White House officials said the interview and Obama’s meetings with Xi represent adequate coverage of the president’s visit to China.
Xi and Obama are scheduled to have a private dinner and tea Tuesday night, the president's daily schedule indicated. The two heads of state are also expected to hold expanded meetings with representatives from the two countries. Obama and Xi are expected to give statements after the meetings are over although the White House pressed for a question-and-answer session with reporters that was rejected by Beijing.