U.S. President Donald Trump has described protests in Hong Kong as “riots” that China will have to deal with itself, signaling a hands-off approach to the biggest political crisis gripping the former British colony in decades.

Millions have taken to the streets in the past three months to protest against an extradition bill that would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial in courts controlled by the Communist Party.

The protests are the most serious political crisis in Hong Kong since it returned to China 22 years ago. They also pose the greatest popular challenge to Chinese leader Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012 and come as Xi already grapples with a Sino-U.S. trade war and tensions in the South China Sea.

Some activists have waved the U.S. flag during the demonstrations, while Beijing has accused U.S. officials of being behind the violent chaos and warned against interference.

Trump was asked by reporters before leaving for a campaign event in Ohio on Thursday whether he was concerned by media reports that China might intervene in Hong Kong and said the city had experienced “riots for a long period of time”.

“Hong Kong is a part of China, they’ll have to deal with that themselves,” he said.

Trump’s labeling of the demonstrations as riots is certain to rile activists in the Asian financial center who have called on the city’s government to drop the use of the word to describe the protests.

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