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China rejects request for two US Navy ships to visit Hong Kong amid civil unrest

The USS Lake Erie enters Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, June 26, 2018, in preparation for the Rim of the Pacific exercise. Navy and Coast Guard ships continued to search Tuesday for a sailor who went missing Sunday from the USS Lake Erie in the eastern Pacific Ocean.

U.S. NAVY

By CHRISTIAN LOPEZ | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 13, 2019

The Chinese government has denied two U.S. Navy vessels entry to Hong Kong for scheduled port calls as pro-democracy protests continue in that city.

The amphibious dock ship USS Green Bay intended to make a visit on Saturday and the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie planned to stop there later in September, Cmdr. Nate Christensen, deputy spokesman for U.S. Pacific Fleet, told Stars and Stripes Wednesday in an email.

The Green Bay is part of the Wasp Expeditionary Strike Group at Sasebo Naval Base, Japan. The Lake Erie is homeported in San Diego.

Christensen directed to Beijing questions regarding why the request was denied.

Last year, China barred the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp from a port call in Hong Kong in September, the result of an ongoing trade disputes between the United States and China.

Subsequently, the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville paid visits to Hong Kong in November; in April, the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Bertholf made a port call there weeks after a transit of the Taiwan Strait.

Christensen acknowledged the provisional nature of China’s denial of port calls by the Navy.

“The U.S. Navy has a long track record of successful port visits to Hong Kong,” he said, “and we expect to continue them.”

Meanwhile, civil unrest continued Tuesday in Hong Kong, where thousands of demonstrators prompted authorities to shut down Hong Kong International Airport a second consecutive day, according to the South China Morning Post. Video posted online showed demonstrators clashing with police wielding shields and batons.

The airport resumed operations Wednesday, according to a tweet from Cathay Pacific Airways. Also, the airport operator obtained a court order barring demonstrators from blocking outbound passengers, according to Nikkei Asian Review.

Beijing has described the Hong Kong protests as “riots” and the protestors as “terrorists.”

President Donald Trump on Tuesday tweeted: “Our Intelligence has informed us that the Chinese Government is moving troops to the Border with Hong Kong. Everyone should be calm and safe!”

The recent round of unrest began in early June with the introduction of a bill in the Hong Kong legislature to allow Hong Kong residents to be extradited to China, where the Communist Party controls the courts.

Many Hong Kongers feared the party would encroach on existing freedoms, sparking the current ongoing protests.

Under the “one country, two systems” principle, Hong Kong, a former British possession, has remained mostly autonomous, holding on to rights to assembly, free speech and a free press. Hong Kong’s autonomous status expires in 2047.

Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, in mid-June suspended the extradition bill, but protests continued, aimed in part in withdrawing the bill completely, along with four other demands.

Prior to the airport occupation, demonstrators clashed repeatedly with police in the streets of Hong Kong. Police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.

lopez.christian@stripes.com
Twitter: @CLopez_Stripes

 

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