After staying quiet for days following President Trump’s move to curtail relations with Hong Kong, Beijing weighed in on Monday with a relatively measured response, suggesting that it might be waiting for details about Washington’s plan.
Mr. Trump cast his announcement on Friday as a response to Beijing’s move to impose broad new national security legislation in Hong Kong. As punishment, the president said, he would begin removing policy agreements with the semiautonomous city, including an extradition treaty, commercial relations and export controls.
But his announcement left many questions unanswered, including what the speed and full scope of the administration’s actions will be.
Responding to reporters in Beijing, Zhao Lijian, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, stayed close to the ruling Communist Party’s official line on the protests in Hong Kong. He cast the administration’s move as just the latest attempt by a foreign power to interfere in Hong Kong.
“Any words and deeds from the United States that harm the interests of China will be resolutely counterattacked by the Chinese side,” Mr. Zhao said at a regularly scheduled news briefing. “The United States’ attempt to obstruct China’s development and growth is doomed to fail.”
“Hong Kong is China’s Hong Kong,” he added.
Hong Kong maintains its own government and robust civic freedoms under a policy known as “one country, two systems.” Unlike mainland China, it also has an independent judiciary and a loosely regulated financial system — crucial elements for maintaining the city’s role as a commercial gateway between China and the world.
Mr. Zhao’s remarks on Monday echoed an editorial published on Saturday by the People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s flagship newspaper. “This hegemonic act of attempting to interfere in Hong Kong affairs and grossly interfere in China’s internal affairs will not frighten the Chinese people and is doomed to fail,” read the editorial.
In a statement released on Saturday, an unnamed spokesman for the Hong Kong government also condemned the administration’s move.
“President Trump’s claim that Hong Kong now operated under ‘one country, one system’ was completely false and ignored the facts on the ground,” the government spokesman said.
Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing, pointed out that China has not yet announced details of the new national security legislation for Hong Kong, and suggested that both the United States and China appeared to be waiting for more information to come out before taking concrete action. China could also still be researching its options for retaliation against moves by the United States, he said.
“It’s a complicated situation and important, not only for Hong Kong but also for China, both from an economic and financial standpoint,” Mr. Shi said.
But while the ambiguity may give the Trump administration and Beijing room to maneuver, he said, it seems unlikely at this point that either side would be willing to back down.
“Both sides have already declared their principles,” Mr. Shi said. “Now it’s just wait and see.”
Claire Fu contributed research from Beijing.