Morrison keeps mum on US and Hong Kong

Daniel McCulloch
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is hopeful the civil unrest in Hong Kong will end peacefully

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has refused to endorse US legislation in support of protesters in Hong Kong.

China has threatened to retaliate as Donald Trump prepares to sign off on laws endorsing the pro-democracy movement.

"We don't have to make these choices," Mr Morrison told 3AW radio on Friday, when asked whether Australia would side with America or China.

"We have a direct relationship with China. We have a direct relationship with the United States."

Hong Kong has been gripped by months of protests, with millions of people taking to the streets in giant marches often marred by violent clashes with police.

"The situation in Hong Kong is very concerning," the prime minister said.

"We have many Australians who obviously live in Hong Kong and many Australians who have family who live in Hong Kong.

"We have been urging restraint and patience and at the end of the day it's a matter for the Hong Kong administration to deal with the civil issues there.

"Our interventions, sort of overt or otherwise, don't necessarily help that situation."

Mr Morrison said the Australian government was still maintaining hope for some sort of peaceful resolution.

"But for the people of Hong Kong this is very, very difficult and I know there are a lot of Australians that are very concerned about that, and so am I and the foreign minister," he said.

Legislation passed by the US Congress backs universal suffrage, freedom from arbitrary arrests, and sanctions against those who contravene such principles.

China has warned it will take "strong counter-measures" if the US continues to interfere with its internal affairs.

"The exercise here is to ensure that you can restore order on the ground with the civil authorities in Hong Kong," Mr Morrison said.

"I mean, in the same way there are massive protests in any other country, it's their country's responsibility to sort that out."

Australia has repeatedly urged Hong Kong police to exercise restraint and respond proportionately to protests.

"We think that is the most constructive way to bring about a resolution to this and we certainly hope that there is," the prime minister said.

"But it is deeply troubling and concerning for the people of Hong Kong, and we look forward to the Hong Kong administration being able to resolve it."