Cramer: Hong Kong protests 'more serious' than US-China trade war for global markets

Key Points
  • CNBC's Jim Cramer says his biggest concern for markets is how China might respond to the escalating protests in Hong Kong.
  • Mass protests in Hong Kong began in June in opposition to a bill that would have allowed extradition to China but morphed into a democracy movement.
  • Cramer says he expects the Chinese government to bring in the People's Liberation Army to quell the crowds, a move that would have global implications.
Cramer: Hong Kong protests are a bigger threat to China than the US trade war

Global investors should be more concerned about the fallout from anti-government protests in Hong Kong than the U.S.-China trade war, CNBC's Jim Cramer said Monday, hours after the city's main airport canceled all flights do to demonstrations.

"I just don't think the Chinese communists can avoid it anymore," Cramer said. "The Chinese government is more worried about Hong Kong than they're worried about trade. Because Hong Kong is something that's very visible in Europe."

"This is more serious than the trade talks," he added. "If you want to know what could tip you into a worldwide recession, it is just a shutdown of Hong Kong," a major financial hub in Asia.

Protesters in Hong Kong have been rallying since June, at first in opposition of a proposal that would have allowed extradition to mainland China, a measure critics argue would threaten judicial protections. They want Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam to officially withdraw the extradition bill from future consideration instead of just saying that the measure is "dead."

Hong Kong has been rocked by protests for weeks — here's why

Demonstrations, which have morphed into a democracy movement, ramped up on Monday, with about 5,000 protesters flooding Hong Kong International Airport, one of the world's busiest, and leading officials there to cancel flights for the rest of the day.

"I'm not saying the protesters are playing with fire. I think the protesters want fire," Cramer said. "This airport needs to be opened for me to feel better about what's going on." The "Mad Money" host has been saying since last week that the unrest in Hong Kong is his biggest worry for markets.

Cramer said he expects the Chinese government to bring in the People's Liberation Army to quell the crowds, which would have global implications.

"If there's a 'Tiananmen Square' in Hong Kong, we know this market has to get hit," he said, talking about what could a worst case scenario. In 1989, Chinese troops stormed Tiananmen Square to break up a mass pro-democracy demonstration, killing what's believed to be at least 10,000 people.