• President Donald Trump refused to release a statement on the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre because he didn’t want to jeopardize his trade deal with China, according to John Bolton’s new book. 
  • “Trump refused to issue a White House statement. ‘That was 15 years ago,’ he said, inaccurately. ‘Who cares about it? I’m trying to make a deal. I don’t want anything.’ And that was that,” wrote Bolton, who served as his national security adviser for over a year.
  • For similar reasons, Bolton said Trump was reluctant to speak out against China’s crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong last summer. 
  • “‘I don’t want to get involved,’ and, ‘We have human-rights problems too,'” Trump said of the Hong Kong situation, per Bolton.
  • In a 1990 interview with Playboy, Trump said China had showed the “power of strength” when its troops massacred hundreds, possibly thousands, of pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square the year before. 
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President Donald Trump declined to make a statement on the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, and showed little concern over the human rights abuses and anti-democratic moves that triggered massive protests in Hong Kong at the same time, because he was prioritizing a trade deal with China, according to John Bolton’s upcoming book: “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir.”

As police cracked down on pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong last June, Trump was also in the midst of trade discussions with Beijing. 

In an essay adapted from his book, published by the Wall Street Journal, Bolton wrote that Trump said it was a “big deal” when he learned 1.5 million people had demonstrated on behalf of democracy on a single day in Hong Kong.

“But [Trump] immediately added, ‘I don’t want to get involved,’ and, ‘We have human-rights problems too,'” Bolton wrote. 

“I hoped Trump would see these Hong Kong developments as giving him leverage over China. I should have known better,” Bolton added. “That same month, on the 30th anniversary of China’s massacre of pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square, Trump refused to issue a White House statement. ‘That was 15 years ago,’ he said, inaccurately. ‘Who cares about it? I’m trying to make a deal. I don’t want anything.’ And that was that.”

Trump, who recently condoned violent crackdowns by law enforcement on protesters demonstrating against police brutality in the US, once praised China’s deadly military assault in Tiananmen Square in 1989. 

In a 1990 interview with Playboy, Trump said China had showed the “power of strength” when its troops massacred hundreds, possibly thousands, of pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square the year before. 

“When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength,” Trump said at the time. 

Trump went on to say, “That shows you the power of strength. Our country is right now perceived as weak…as being spit on by the rest of the world.”

Tiananmen Square

In this June 5, 1989 file photo, a Chinese man stands alone to block a line of tanks heading east on Beijing’s Changan Blvd. from Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

AP


Bolton also wrote that Trump asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to buy agricultural products from the US to help Trump win states with large farming industries in the 2020 election. 

According to the book, Trump was “pleading with Xi to ensure he’d win. He stressed the importance of farmers, and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome.”

The Trump administration is suing Bolton over the book, claiming it contains classified information. 

In the time since the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre last June, the Trump administration has taken a more hardline stance against China in relation to Hong Kong, and more generally. The coronavirus pandemic has led to rising tensions between Beijing and Washington, which some experts have warned represents the early stages of a new Cold War. Trump has blamed China for the virus — the first identified cases popped up in the Chinese city of Wuhan. 

Last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that he had reported to Congress that Hong Kong is “no longer autonomous from China,” which could drastically alter the US government’s relationship with the city. 

The announcement came in response to a controversial national security law, unveiled by China’s rubber-stamp legislature last month (bypassing Hong Kong’s legislature and chief executive), which criminalizes sedition, secession, and foreign influence in the city.

The secretary of state appeared to signal the US might end Hong Kong’s “special status,” which would have enormous ramifications for its status as a global financial hub. The city is treated differently by Washington than mainland China when it comes to trade and other areas.

Sonam Sheth contributed reporting. 

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Donald Trump
Xi Jinping
Hong Kong
Tiananmen Square

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