A new survey shows that a majority of Americans believe the United States should support pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, despite President Donald Trump’s suggestion last Friday that he may veto legislation to placate China and secure a trade deal.
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The survey, sponsored by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, found clear majorities of Americans disagree with key aspects of Trump’s foreign policy, including his decision to not protect Syrian Kurdish partner forces and to remove sanctions on Turkey for its offensive against them.
According to the survey, 68% of Americans said they would be in favor of the U.S. showing support for the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, even it angers China, while only 14% of Americans supported the Chinese government.
Beijing has pursued a fierce crackdown on pro-democracy protesters who have been advocating since June against a proposed law to allow extradition to mainland China and in favor of more direct democracy. While the Beijing-backed government withdrew the proposed law, clashes between police and protesters continue to escalate.
Last week in near-unanimous votes, the House and Senate approved the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which supports the protesters in Hong Kong and re-examines America’s support for the Hong Kong government. The legislation also mandates that the U.S. impose sanctions against foreign persons determined to be responsible for extrajudicial rendition, arbitrary detention, torture or forced confession of people in Hong Kong, or other gross violations of human rights there.
Last Friday, the president suggested he may veto the legislation as he tries to balance his relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping amid the ongoing trade war between the two nations.
“We have to stand with Hong Kong, but I’m also standing with President Xi. He’s a friend of mine. He’s an incredible guy,” Trump told Fox News, adding, “But I’d like to see them work it out. Okay? We have to see and work it out. But I stand with Hong Kong. I stand with freedom. I stand with all of the things that we want to do, but we also are in the process of making the largest trade deal in history. And if we could do that, that would be great.”
But the Reagan survey showed a majority of Americans are in favor of U.S. support to the protesters. 69% said they would favor the U.S. imposing economic sanctions against China if Beijing escalated the use of military force in Hong Kong. And 59% supported the U.S. responding with security assistance or aid.
Meanwhile, Americans were split on the current trade war with China, with 49% expressing support and 46% opposing it.
Support for sanctions against Turkey for Kurdish attacks in Syria
The survey also revealed that while Americans are divided on whether they approve of the president’s partial withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria, a strong majority favor some sort of punishment against Turkey for its attack on Kurdish forces.
Critics charge that Trump gave Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a “green light” to invade northeastern Syria in early October and attack the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, which Erdogan considers a terrorist organization but who the U.S. partnered with to defeat the Islamic State.
While Trump pulled U.S. forces back from the border and then called for all troops to withdraw, the White House has said it opposed the offensive — and Trump has since reversed course and ordered several hundred troops to stay in eastern and southern Syria.
But after sanctioning three senior Turkish officials and two ministries for just days, Trump lifted any economic penalty for Erdogan on Oct. 23 and welcomed the Turkish leader to the White House earlier this month, even in the face of allegations Turkish forces and their Syrian opposition allies committed war crimes.
According to the survey, 72% of Americans said they support sanctions against Turkey for its attacks on Kurdish forces, while 60% favor military support to defend them — a red line the Trump administration has made clear it was not going to cross against Turkey, a NATO ally.
The annual Reagan National Defense Survey polled 1,003 U.S. adults between Oct. 24 and 30 to better understand Americans’ views on a broad array of national defense issues. It will be released by The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation on Tuesday.
ABC News’ Conor Finnegan contributed to this report from the State Department and Mariam Khan contributed to this report from Capitol Hill.