Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam needs to solve the issues that have ignited the violent protests sweeping the territory or step down, China expert Michael Pillsbury said on FOX Business' "The Evening Edit" on Monday.
Pillsbury said he was in Hong Kong a few weeks ago, "and things have escalated quite a bit since then." Student protesters trapped inside at Hong Kong Polytechnic University "have legitimate fears and won't come out to negotiate," said Pillsbury, the director of Chinese strategy at conservative think tank the Hudson Institute. "So Carrie Lam has to solve that somehow and get quiet, confidential negotiations started or she's just going to have to step down."
Pillsbury also stressed that China and the U.S. have made it clear that the protests and negotiations are not tied to the trade talks between the two superpowers.
"I think Secretary Pompeo is on the right track, that we're monitoring this but not link it directly to the trade talks," he said. "In fact, there's a strange agreement between both Beijing and Washington, President Xi and President Trump, that the Hong Kong government, Carrie Lam, has to solve this problem. It's not a matter for the U.S. to intervene directly and certainly not for China to intervene directly. So the pressure right now is on the Hong Kong government. Can they agree to these five demands, the investigation, a better system of choosing the leader of Hong Kong?"
As tensions escalate, will we see another Tiananmen Square, asked "Evening Edit" host Elizabeth MacDonald, referring to the deadly 1989 protests on mainland China?
"It's extremely unlikely," Pillsbury said. "Both the Chinese and President Trump agree the main point is to get back to the system that existed before this terrible extradition treaty was proposed by Carrie Lam, the leader of Hong Kong. She's taken it back, but she hasn't really completely said she'll never do it again. ... There's a succession plan in Hong Kong, so that if she has to step down voluntarily, then she can name someone else in her cabinet to take over as leader. If she can't get these negotiations started and manage the police better, she's going to have to step down. I think that's what the real news is: Will she step down or start the negotiations over the five demands?"
The protesters' five demands include for the government to stop labeling them as rioters; democratic changes in Hong Kong's government; criminal cases to be dropped against protesters; and for police actions against them to be independently investigated, according to the Associated Press.