The White House has moved off of a prior position of neutrality expressed by U.S.Consular officials to back universal suffrage in Hong Kong.
“The United States supports universal suffrage in Hong Kong in accordance with the Basic Law and we support the aspirations of the Hong Kong people,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest in the Monday press briefing.
In the carefully worded remark, Josh Earnest said that the United States is paying close attention to Hong Kong, and that it supports the aspirations of the Hong Kong people. He also urged restraint on both sides, according to Reuters.
Tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters, mostly students, have been turning out in Hong Kong’s streets for nearly a week now, calling for genuine democracy and universal suffrage.
Hong Kong recently had forced upon it a continuation of restrictions to its electoral process by Beijing, which ruled that a committee beholden to it would tightly control the process of selecting candidates for Hong Kong’s 2017 elections.
At the White House’s daily briefing on Monday, Earnest said: “We believe that the basic legitimacy of the chief executive in Hong Kong will be greatly enhanced if the Basic Law’s ultimate aim of selection of the chief executive by universal suffrage is fulfilled.”
He added: “We have consistently made our position known to Beijing, and will continue to do so.”
The remarks, while somewhat guarded, were more substantive than those emanating from the U.S. Consulate General for Hong Kong and Macau, which were criticized for saying “nothing.”
“We do not take sides in the discussion of Hong Kong’s political development, nor do we support any particular individuals or groups involved in it,” the statement read. “We encourage all sides to refrain from actions that would further escalate tensions, to exercise restraint, and to express views on the SAR’s political future in a peaceful manner.”
“Wow,” Miriam Yeung, a Hong Konger now living in Shanghai, remarked drolly on Facebook. “You spent such a long time to type such a long statement to say absolutely nothing?! That’s some skill!”