Resurfaced Trump interview about Tiananmen Square massacre shows what he thinks of protests

Justin Vallejo
AP

Donald Trump gave a glimpse into his mindset towards mass protests when he said in 1990 that China showed "power of strength" in a "vicious" crackdown on students in Tiananmen Square.

Two decades later, armed riot police firing tear gas and rubber bullets cleared protesters away from Lafayette Square before Mr Trump on Monday walked from the White House to St John's Church for a photo-op with a Bible.

During the presidential debates in 2016, then-candidate Trump defended his comments on China by calling the Tiananmen Square protests "riots" and that "strong" wasn't an endorsement.

During the 1989 protests that became known as the Tiananmen Square Massacre, the Chinese communist government fired on demonstrators blocking the entry of tanks and troops into the square.

While common estimates place the death toll at about 3,000, a secret British diplomatic cable written 24 hours after the massacre estimate at least 10,000 people died.

Less than a year later, Mr Trump gave an interview with Playboy magazine that was positioned as a tease of a future in politics. He said wasn't impressed with the Soviet Union or former President Mikhail Gorbachev, who lost control of Russia because he didn't have a "firm enough hand".

When asked by Playboy writer Glenn Plaskin if he meant a "firm hand as in China", Mr Trump said the Chinese government almost blew it when students poured into Tiananmen Square.

"Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength," he said.

"That shows you the power of strength. Our country is right now perceived as weak... as being spit on by the rest of the world."

In the same interview, Mr Trump predicted that Russia's president would be overthrown for showing extraordinary weakness that would lead to a violent revolution and destroy the Soviet Union.

In defending the comments during the 2016 presidential debates, Mr Trump drew more criticism for calling the Tiananmen Square protests "riots".

Debate moderator, CNN anchor Jake Tapper, said that critics expressed concerns about Mr Trump's praise of authoritarian dictators.

"That doesn't mean I was endorsing that. I was not endorsing it," Mr Trump said of the massacre.

"I said that is a strong, powerful government that put it down with strength. And then they kept down the riot. It was a horrible thing. It doesn't mean at all I was endorsing it.

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