China has rejected requests for two U.S. Navy warships to visit Hong Kong as massive, weekslong pro-democracy protests continue to roil the former British colony, a U.S. defense official told Fox News.
The USS Green Bay and USS Lake Erie were scheduled for port visits in Hong Kong this Saturday and in September, respectively, but the Chinese government has denied the requests, U.S. Pacific Fleet deputy spokesman Cmdr. Nate Christensen said Tuesday.
“The U.S. Navy has a long track record of successful port visits to Hong Kong, and we expect them to continue,” Christensen said. “We refer you to the Chinese government for further information about why they denied the request.”
The Green Bay is an amphibious transport dock ship; its home port is in Japan. TheLake Erie is a guided-missile cruiser based in San Diego.
The Chinese government has not publicly stated why it denied the Navy’s request, but this would not be the first time it rejected a port visit to Hong Kong.
China denied an American request for the USS Wasp to visit Hong Kong in September 2018 over escalating U.S.-China trade tensions.
The last U.S. warship to visit Hong Kong was the USS Blue Ridge this past April.
Protests have taken place in the Hong Kong region for more than two months now, as tens of thousands demand that Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam step down and that the government pull legislation that would allow it to extradite criminal suspects to mainland China. The fear is that on the mainland, those suspects would face unfair trials and torture.
Protesters are also calling for an independent probe into the alleged abuse of power by the police.
Protesters shut down Hong Kong International Airport for the second day in a row on Tuesday. All flights were canceled Monday as protesters occupied the main terminal, and flights were again canceled Tuesday.
The airport is one of the world’s busiest, and the closure is said to have a major impact on the tourism industry there.
On Tuesday, President Trump tweeted about the protests in Hong Kong.
“Many are blaming me, and the United States, for the problems going on in Hong Kong. I can’t imagine why?” he wrote.
The president later tweeted, “Our Intelligence has informed us that the Chinese Government is moving troops to the Border with Hong Kong. Everyone should be calm and safe,” referring to the clashes of police and pro-democracy protesters.
Chinese authorities have likened the protests to “terrorism.”
Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson contributed to this report.