A Republican leader spoke out in support of the pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong, but some say he's actually hurting the cause

Donald Trump Kevin McCarthyPresident Donald Trump, right, accompanied by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., speaks to members of the media as they arrive for a dinner at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Fla., Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018.AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
  • House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday expressed solidarity with pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong who waved American flags and sang the US national anthem. 
  • "We see you waving the American flag, and we hear you singing our national anthem," McCarthy wrote on social media. "America stands for freedom. America stands with Hong Kong."
  • But some foreign policy experts were critical of McCarthy's approach, arguing that tying the protesters to the US plays into the Chinese government's false claims that the US is behind the movement. 
  • Scott Kennedy, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told INSIDER McCarthy's comments are "inaccurate and damaging." 
  • The Chinese government has accused the US of aiding the protesters, which the regime is targeting with an aggressive disinformation and propaganda campaign.
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House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday expressed solidarity with pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong who appeared to wave American flags and sing the US national anthem, but some experts say McCarthy's comments could harm the protesters' cause. 

"To the thousands of young people in Hong Kong who are speaking UP for human rights and speaking OUT against the Communist Party of China: we see you waving the American flag, and we hear you singing our national anthem," McCarthy wrote on social media. "America stands for freedom. America stands with Hong Kong."

McCarthy was likely referring to footage that appears to show pro-democracy protesters singing the American national anthem while waving American flags in the streets of Hong Kong. The viral clip was shared on Twitter by Chrystal Neria, a singer, model and Trump campaign adviser who goes by Kaya Jones. 

Scott Kennedy, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, called McCarthy's comments "inaccurate and damaging" because it "feeds paranoia in Beijing" that the US is behind the protests. 

"The protest movement doesn't have anything to do with the US - it's all about the relationship between Hong Kong and China," Kennedy told INSIDER. 

He said the footage of protesters waving American flags and singing the anthem was "not a reflection of the protest movement, either in its origination, the dynamics, the motivations for it, the source of its strength or longevity." 

The Chinese government has accused the US of aiding the protesters, which the regime is targeting with an aggressive disinformation and propaganda campaign. And CCTV has reportedly promoted a "What Is America Up To?" hashtag on Chinese social media.  

"Some senior U.S. politicians and diplomatic officials met and engaged with anti-China rabble-rousers in Hong Kong, criticized China unreasonably, propped up violent and illegal activities, and undermined Hong Kong's prosperity and stability," a spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry, Hua Chunying, said in a statement on the ministry's website.

Read more: The US government is warning citizens against traveling to Hong Kong amid protests and 'violent clashes'

Jorge Guajardo, a former Mexican ambassador to China, called McCarthy's tweet "the most irresponsible statement imaginable." 

He added, "It puts every protester in danger of being labeled a foreign agent by the Chinese government." 

And Washington Post foreign affairs columnist Ishaan Tharoor tweeted that the conservative lawmaker's comments were "frankly, stupid."

"Beijing literally wants everyone to believe these protests are US-manufactured. They are not," Tharoor wrote. "But for an elected US official to lend credence to that idea for the sake of jingoism is quite something." 

A spokesman for McCarthy didn't immediately respond to INSIDER's request for comment. 

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has stopped short of expressing support for the protesters or criticizing the Chinese government in recent days. 

"The Hong Kong thing is a very tough situation. Very tough," Trump told reporters on Tuesday. "We'll see what happens. But I'm sure it'll work out ... I hope it works out for everybody, including China. I hope it works out peacefully. I hope nobody gets hurt. I hope nobody gets killed."

The US State Department struck a different tone in a statement this week describing the US's "support for freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly in Hong Kong." 
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