efe-epaWashington

President Donald Trump on Thursday suggested that his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, should meet "personally" with the Hong Kong protesters to discuss ending the huge anti-government demonstrations that have rocked the Asian financial center for weeks.

"If President Xi would meet directly and personally with the protesters, there would be a happy and enlightened ending to the Hong Kong problem. I have no doubt!" Trump said on Twitter.

Trump tweeted this suggestion hours after indicating that he would like to meet with Xi to discuss the situation in Hong Kong.

"I know President Xi of China very well. He is a great leader who very much has the respect of his people. He is also a good man in a 'tough business.' I have ZERO doubt that if President Xi wants to quickly and humanely solve the Hong Kong problem, he can do it. Personal meeting?" Trump tweeted on Wednesday.

Trump's statements came after the State Department said Wednesday that it was "deeply concerned" about the situation in Hong Kong due to the supposed presence of Chinese paramilitary forces along the border with the region.

The State Department issued a travel advisory on Wednesday, warning that "several large scale and smaller political demonstrations have taken place in various areas of Hong Kong, including at Hong Kong International Airport. Most have been peaceful, but some have turned confrontational or resulted in violent clashes."

Trump used his comments to mix the Hong Kong issue with the ongoing trade war with China, urging Xi to resolve the problems in the region so he can focus on cutting a deal on trade.

"Millions of jobs are being lost in China to other non-Tariffed countries. Thousands of companies are leaving. Of course China wants to make a deal. Let them work humanely with Hong Kong first!" Trump tweeted.

The protests in Hong Kong began in June, with demonstrators demanding the withdrawal of an unpopular extradition bill that was promoted as a way to prevent the region from serving as a safe haven for criminal fugitives.

Opponents, however, said the legislation would be used to force Hong Kong-based critics of the Chinese government to face trial on the mainland.

Even after Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said last month that the bill was "dead," protesters continued to press their demands for improvements to the special administrative region's democratic mechanisms.

The protests have intensified, leading to clashes between riot police and demonstrators.

China regained sovereignty over Hong Kong from the United Kingdom in 1997.

But the "one country, two systems" framework that governs Hong Kong-mainland relations provides that that region has significant autonomy in nearly all areas except foreign affairs and defense. EFE

asl/hv