Obama denies US role in Hong Kong protests

President downplays tension between China and US, saying Washington's "pivot to Asia" is not about containing Beijing.

    [EPA]
    [EPA]

    The United States has had no role in the ongoing pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong, US President Barack Obama has said.

    Responding to a question at a joint news conference with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, Obama said: "On the issue of Hong Kong, which did come up in our conversations, I was unequivocal in saying to President Xi that the United States had no involvement in fostering the protests that took place there."

    "These issues are ultimately for the people of Hong Kong and people of China to decide," the US president said.

    "But I did describe for him that the United States - as a matter of foreign policy but also as a matter of our values - are gonna consistently to speak out on the right of the people to express themselves and encouraged that the elections that take place in Hong Kong are transparent and fair and reflective of the opinion of the people there."

    Hong Kong police have been grappling with pro-democracy demonstrations that have lasted for weeks.

    The two leaders were addressing reporters following two days of discussions on economic and security issues. Beijing has been this year's host of the APEC summit, which Obama attended with world leaders.

    Security of people 

    Al Jazeera's Scott Heidler, reporting from Beijing, said the two nations discussed everything from Ebola to climate change.

    "It would be interesting to see how things go forward after these meetings," our correspondent said.


    The US president said that even as the two countries compete, the world's largest economies can work together on areas of agreement to advance the security of their people.

    I had candid discussions with President Obama about human rights [and] on the question of human rights ... there is always room for improvement

    President Xi.

    Major areas of tension exist between the two countries, including cybersecurity and China's fears that the US is seeking to contain its rise.

    But Obama said that the conversation he had with Xi gave him the "opportunity to debunk the notion ... that out pivot to Asia is about containing China".

    "I have repeatedy reiterated and displayed through the actions of our administration that we want China to succeed," Obama said.

    "And we actively encourage our friends and allies in the region to foster a strong and cooperative relationship with China."

    President Xi said that the occupy protests were illegal and that he was satisfied with the Hong Kong administration's
    handling of the issue.

    Although Obama ticked through a list of areas where the US and China disagree, including cybersecurity and human
    rights, he insisted such disagreements did not preclude the two countries from taking advantage of common ground.

    "I had candid discussions with President Obama about human rights [and] on the question of human rights ... there is always room for improvement," President Xi said.

    Xi, spoke of an "unwavering spirit'' that 
    characterised the two countries' commitment to cooperate as global powers. Obama and Xi took questions from reporters at the Great Hall of the People on the final day of Obama's three-day trip to China. 

    It was evident that Xi and Obama were trying to accentuate areas of agreement, including joint announcements on climate change and trade. Xi also says "the Pacific Ocean is broad enough'' to accommodate the development of both the US and China.

    "We have shown that US-China cooperation can not only be good for both countries but also for the world as a whole. Where we have disagreements, we will be candid about our intentions, and we will work to narrow those differences." where possible.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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