This is very very embarrassing. Julie Eadeh, a US diplomat in Hong Kong, was caught meeting HK protest leaders. It would be hard to imagine the US reaction if Chinese diplomat were meeting leaders of Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter or Never Trump protesters.
US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus, however, justified the move, saying that it was the job of US diplomats and those from other countries to meet with different people, including opposition leaders.
“This is not only what American diplomats do. This is what other countries’ diplomats do,” she said.
Ortagus also claimed that “leaking an American diplomat’s private information, pictures, names of their children... is what a thuggish regime would do.”
She, however, did not name the diplomat or elaborate further on the kind of private information or children’s details which were disclosed.
China’s official television broadcaster CCTV called the American diplomat “the behind-the-scenes black hand creating chaos in Hong Kong.”
Commenting on the report, Li Haidong, a professor with the China Foreign Affairs University's Institute of International Relations in Beijing, told the Global Times that the contact is “solid evidence" the US is behind the riots in Hong Kong.
US issues warning against travelling to Hong Kong
The US issued a travel advisory on Wednesday, urging those visiting Hong Kong to avoid demonstrations keep a low profile and exercise caution if unexpectedly in the vicinity of large gatherings or protests.
“These demonstrations, which can take place with little or no notice, are likely to continue,” the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs said in a statement.
Weeks of street rallies, which mostly led to violence between police and protesters—some of them waving flags of the United States and the United Kingdom — are taking a growing toll on the city's economy, as local shoppers and tourists avoid parts of one of the world's most famous shopping destinations.
Hong Kong has been governed under a “one-country, two-system” model since the city — a former British colony — was returned to China in 1997.
Many people in the city have expressed frustration over the violence that has disrupted their normal life and routine in the city.
Washington, however, adamantly backs the unrest in the city as tensions between the US administration and Beijing have surged over an expanding trade war and military rivalry in the western Pacific, among many other disputes between the two world powers.
President Donald Trump initiated a trade war with China last year, when he first imposed unusually heavy tariffs on imports from the country, seeking extensive structural changes from Beijing and alleging that it had engaged in intellectual property theft over many years, which China vehemently denies.
Trump mulling currency war with China
The US president took yet another step to further escalate the dispute on Thursday by imposing new import duties on Chinese goods.
In response to the new tariffs, China’s central bank is to allow its currency, the yuan, to depreciate slightly.
It set the midpoint of the yuan’s daily trading range above seven to the US dollar for the first time in more than a decade.
The move, which breaks with decades of US policy, apparently angered President Trump, who is not happy with the strong dollar.
“As your President, one would think that I would be thrilled with our very strong dollar. I am not!” he said in a Twitter message.
“The Fed’s high interest rate level, in comparison to other countries, is keeping the dollar high, making it more difficult for our great manufacturers like Caterpillar, Boeing … John Deere, our car companies, & others, to compete on a level playing field,” he said.
The US Treasury accused Beijing of manipulating the currency. Economists, however, said that “labeling China as a manipulator is totally fallacious.”
“They are not manipulating,” said Fred Bergsten, founder of the Peterson Institute of International Economics. “It’s fake news, as Trump would say.”
He also warned about the risk of a real currency war if the US administration tries to sell dollars to weaken the exchange rate and Beijing fought back with its own intervention.
“That would constitute a currency war,” Bergsten said. “Getting into a currency war would be (a) very risky business. Particularly with this administration, which nobody trusts anyway.”
The US administrations have for decades kept the dollar strong in order to provide stability and hold down inflation by making imported goods less expensive.
But a strong currency also makes US exports more expensive.