The United States said Wednesday that it was concerned about movements of Chinese forces on the border with Hong Kong and urged Beijing to honor the territory's autonomy as pro-democracy protests continued.
A day after President Donald Trump appeared to take a hands-off position on the protests, a State Department spokesperson voiced concerns about the "continued erosion" of Hong Kong's autonomy and expressed "staunch" support for freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in the territory.
"The United States is deeply concerned by reports of Chinese paramilitary movement along the Hong Kong border," the spokesperson, who would not be named, told AFP in a statement.
"The United States strongly urges Beijing to adhere to its commitments in the Sino-British Joint Declaration to allow Hong Kong to exercise a high degree of autonomy."
The spokesperson said the protests, which forced the partial closure of Hong Kong's international airport on Tuesday, reflect "broad and legitimate concerns" among Hong Kong's citizenry over the loss of autonomy, which was agreed in the deal between London and Beijing over returning the former British colony to China in 1997.
"We condemn violence and urge all sides to exercise restraint, but remain staunch in our support for freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly in Hong Kong," the US official said.
"We categorically reject the false charge of foreign forces as the black hand behind the protests," the official added.
Trump, who is locked in a tense showdown with Beijing over trade relations, said Tuesday that US intelligence had reported that the Chinese government "is moving troops" to the Hong Kong border.
He called the situation "very tricky," adding: "I hope it works out for everybody including China. I hope it works out peacefully, nobody gets hurt, nobody gets killed."
Hong Kong police patrol on Wednesday, a day after pro-democracy protestors partially shut down the territory's airport