China has denied a request on Tuesday for two U.S. Navy ships to make a port call to Hong Kong.
The USS Green Bay had planned to make a port call to Hong Kong on Aug. 17, while the USS Lake Erie planned for a port call in September, but both visits were denied by the Chinese government on Tuesday, according to a CNN report on Tuesday.
“The Chinese Government denied requests for port visits to Hong Kong by the USS Green Bay and USS Lake Erie, which were scheduled to arrive in the next few weeks,” Cmdr. Nate Christensen, the deputy spokesman for the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet, told CNN in a statement.
“The US Navy has a long track record of successful port visits to Hong Kong and we expect them to continue. We refer you to the Chinese Government for further information about why they denied the request,” Christensen added.
The rejection follows comes more than two months of civil unrest in Hong Kong after protesters began demonstrating against a bill that would’ve allowed citizens to be extradited to China for prosecution.
Although the bill was suspended, it was not fully withdrawn, leaving protesters enraged over the possibility of being subjected to China’s control and impeding upon their freedoms in Hong Kong.
This week, protesters caused the Hong Kong International Airport to halt flights for two days while pro-democracy demonstrations took place.
Although the U.S. Navy has frequently visited the Hong Kong port for a number of years, China has also rejected port calls on occasion in the past.
In September 2018, China denied a port call for the USS Wasp, as well as canceled a meeting between Chinese and U.S. senior naval officials, and recalled their own Vice Adm. Shen Jinlong from visiting the U.S.
At the time, the Wasp Expeditionary Strike Group had been in the East China Sea after providing disaster relief assistance to areas in Guam and the Mariana Islands after Typhoon Mangkhut.
A reason was not given for that rejected port call or the canceled meeting, though it came amid tensions resulting from rounds of sanctions and tariffs, and followed the United States’ removal of China from a global military exercise – a decision made in retaliation for China’s militarization of islands in the South China Sea.
In April 2016, China also denied another Hong Kong port visit to U.S. aircraft carrier John C. Stennis over land claim disputes toward islands in the South China Sea.