Trump tweeted on the morning of May 29 that he’s considering dispatching the National Guard to Minneapolis to quell its recent riots. He even wrote that “We will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
The governor already deployed these forces, however, so it’s unclear why Trump said that he’d be the one to do so. Still, his intent is obvious enough to all, and it’s that he wants the rioters to stop looting as soon as possible otherwise they risk being killed during the unrest that they themselves started.
As a brief backgrounder, George Lloyd – an African-American man who was suspected of attempting to pass off counterfeit money earlier this week – died after being apprehended by law enforcement officers in Minneapolis. One of them was caught on video nonchalantly kneeling on his neck as Lloyd pleaded for help and insisted that he couldn’t breathe. The incident immediately brought to mind the death of Eric Garner in 2014, who lost his life under similar circumstances at the hands of the New York Police Department.
From a law and order perspective, Trump’s promised crackdown would be a principled defense of the city’s residents. They don’t deserve to live in terror of what the rioters might do next. Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo also claimed that a lot of the violence was instigated by people who aren’t from Minneapolis, which strongly suggests that some sort of conspiracy is brewing there. Justice cannot be served for Lloyd so long as rioters are rampaging throughout the city. In fact, such actions arguably dishonor his memory like Trump also tweeted.
Having said that, it would be extremely hypocritical for Trump to follow through on his words considering the double standards that he and his administration have employed against China’s Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR). That metropolis is also suffering from a similar bout of instability, albeit it for over a year now instead of just the past few days. Its law enforcement officers have exercised enormous restraint just like their Minneapolis counterparts have, yet the U.S. is threatening to sanction the HKSAR.
The Trump administration has thrown its full support behind those ongoing disturbances halfway across the world despite them being very similar to what Minneapolis is nowadays experiencing as well. Mobs have ransacked and torched public and private properties in the Chinese city, and they’ve also intimidated the vast majority of the city’s peaceful inhabitants. Instead of supporting the central government’s national security legislation for the HKSAR, the Trump administration has spread fake news about it supposedly ending the city’s autonomy.
HKSAR’s law enforcement officers haven’t reacted anywhere near as forcefully as Minneapolis’ have, nor did Chinese President Xi Jinping threaten a military intervention there like Trump just did in the Minnesotan city, let alone threaten to shoot those who are engaged in illegal activities. China has exercised patience in dealing with the externally encouraged unrest in the HKSAR for over a year, while the leader of the so-called “free world” is boasting about preparing to kill his own citizens after only a few days of genuinely grassroots violence.
To be absolutely clear, it is the responsibility of any country’s central authorities to ensure law and order, and those citizens who participate in illegal, violent activities that put other people’s lives and properties at risk are also risking their own lives in such a situation. Trump has the legal and moral responsibility to restore stability to Minneapolis so that the city can begin to heal from the sudden trauma that it’s just experienced. Only then does justice have a chance of being served, even if it still isn’t guaranteed.
Just as American officials have the right to deploy the National Guard in response to this week’s riot and authorize them to use lethal force like Trump hinted, so too do Chinese officials have the right to at least table national security legislation for empowering Hong Kong’s law enforcement officers in response to the similar unrest that they’ve been facing for a year already. It is therefore hypocritical that the Trump administration might sanction the HKSAR for defending itself in a more peaceful way than the U.S. is.