WASHINGTON-US President Donald Trump has suggested a “personal meeting” with Chinese President Xi Jinping to discuss the political crisis engulfing Hong Kong.

In a tweet Mr Trump said he had “ZERO doubt” that Mr Xi could “humanely solve the Hong Kong problem”.

He also tied the protests to a US trade deal with Beijing, in the face of ongoing trade tensions.

“Of course China wants to make a deal. Let them work humanely with Hong Kong first!” he tweeted.

Trump’s comments come after weeks of tumultuous pro-democracy protests sparked by opposition to an extradition bill in Hong Kong.

Critics feared the bill would erode freedoms in Hong Kong, by allowing suspects to be extradited to mainland China. The bill has now been suspended, but the protests have evolved into a broader movement, with demonstrators expressing anger at alleged police brutality, and demanding democratic reform.

Hong Kong, a former British colony, is part of China under a “one country, two systems” model that grants it a high level of autonomy.

It has its own legal system and judiciary and enjoys certain freedoms not seen in the mainland - Hong Kong and Macau for example, are the only places in Chinese territory where people can hold vigils commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Clashes between demonstrators and police have escalated in recent days, with Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam warning the city could be “pushed into an abyss”.

The Chinese government has strongly criticised the protesters, calling their behaviour “close to terrorism”.

On Wednesday evening, police armed with riot shields fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of demonstrators gathered in the Sham Shui Po neighbourhood, who had been shining laser pointers at a police station.

Laser pointers have gained significance in the protests after a student was arrested for possessing laser pointers, which police described as an “offensive weapon” that could cause serious eye injuries.

Since then, demonstrators have used lasers as a way of ridiculing the claim.

Wednesday’s tear gas came a day after protests at Hong Kong’s International Airport turned violent on Tuesday night.

Thousands of protesters flooded the terminal buildings, using luggage trolleys to build barriers.

The gathering started off as a peaceful mass sit-down, but things escalated and a mainland Chinese state media journalist was set upon by protesters who accused him of being an undercover police officer.