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It would’ve been the latest in a series of shots between the US and China. The two countries have been at loggerheads for months due to the coronavirus pandemic, proposed laws on Hong Kong and trade deal tensions.
A schedule released Tuesday by the State Department read that Pompeo would meet the survivors of the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising at 2:30 pm ahead of the 31st anniversary of its suppression by Chinese armed forces.
The visit would have come after he is expected to also accompany US President Donald Trump on a visit to the Saint John Paul II National Shrine and the signing of an Executive Order to Advance International Religious Freedom.
It comes as the president said Monday he would invoke a 200-plus-year-old military law to deploy troops in the U.S. in a bid to quell sometimes violent protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, a black man, after a white Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeled on his neck.
Chauvin has since been fired and charged with murder and manslaughter.
Pompeo’s event would have been another symbolic jab at Beijing, with whom the Trump administration has been feuding on several overlapping geopolitical and economic issues.
Pompeo accused the ruling Chinese Communist Party of “destroying the amazing freedoms of the people of Hong Kong,” a former UK colony granted limited self-rule as part of a 1997 handover to Beijing.
He said Wednesday that this autonomy was no longer functional as a result of new Chinese laws, including recent national security legislation boosting efforts to crack down on separatism in Hong Kong.
The new law led Trump to begin repealing special privileges afforded to the special administrative region under US law.
Both Washington and Beijing have frequently accused one another of human rights abuses.
China’s 1989 military efforts to end protests at Tiananmen Square in the capital are a recurring US talking point.
The demonstrations began that April shortly after the death by heart attack of former Chinese Communist Party Secretary-General Hu Yaobang, a reformist forced to resign over his beliefs, but was put to a violent end on June 4 with troops and tanks turning on the mass gathering.
Chinese government officials have placed the death toll between 200 and 300 among protesters and security personnel, while experts and activists have given estimates in the thousands.
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Due to anger over Beijing’s restrictive security laws on Hong Kong, the opposition party Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China shared a letter on Tuesday showing an annual vigil for protesters killed during the Tiananmen Square uprising was set to be canceled due to concerns over the novel coronavirus.
Pompeo tweeted support on Tuesday: “It starts; so soon.
“For the first time in 30 years, Hong Kong authorities denied permission to hold the Tiananmen Vigil.
“If there is any doubt about Beijing’s intent, it is to deny Hong Kongers a voice and a choice, making them the same as mainlanders.
“So much for two systems.”
As of Tuesday, around at least nine people had been reported killed in connection with the US protests against police brutality and systemic racism, and they include bystanders, suspected looters and one police officer.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and other international voices have condemned Floyd’s death and a growing number of countries critical of U.S. policy have taken aim at the ongoing clashes between police and protestors.
China has accused the Trump administration of holding a “double standard” in condemning Hong Kong’s crackdown on demonstrations there while mobilising the National Guard at home and threatening to shoot suspected looters.
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