CHINESE forces have been massing at the Hong Kong border – with White House officials reported to be closely monitoring the build-up.
Commentators warn that tanks could be sent to crush ongoing protests, in a “Tiananmen Square crackdown take two”.
While the reason for the sudden congregation isn’t clear, Bloomberg reports that a White House senior administration official said that units of the Chinese military or armed police had congregated at the border with Hong Kong.
The official briefed reporters on the proviso that they weren’t named.
The Financial Times pointed out that “the idea of Chinese tanks rolling into Hong Kong would have been unthinkable only a few months ago.
“But, as the Asian financial centre enters its third month of protests triggered by an unpopular extradition law, Beijing and its supporters have made pointed references to the possibility of military intervention.”
Commentator and author Simon Constable warns on Forbes: “If protests continue in Hong Kong, and inspire mainlanders to act similarly, then the army will take control of the Hong Kong territory and crush the protesters.
“At that point, you’ll have a Tiananmen Square crackdown take two, only it will be in Hong Kong, not Beijing.”
This year marked the 30th anniversary of the Beijing bloodshed, when thousands of pro-democracy protesters were killed in Tiananmen Square in June 1989. Ex-Chinese premier Li Peng, the man dubbed “The Butcher of Beijing” died recently at the age of 90.
Roger Boyes, diplomatic editor of The Times, said yesterday that “China is facing a similar dilemma to 1989: whether to use the military to crack down on the increasingly ferocious street demonstrations in the former British colony.”
Boyes says that should China “wait out the crisis” it risks local police being overwhelmed by campaigners.
But if it rushes towards military action, it “risks international opprobrium”.
You’ll have a Tiananmen Square crackdown take two, only it will be in Hong Kong, not Beijing.
Simon Constable, commentator, Forbes
His thoughts are echoed by Ben Bland, a Lowy Institute research fellow, who believes that “deploying the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) would be the nuclear option for Hong Kong.”
When it comes to pursuing a harder line, China can legally intervene to help the former British colony to “maintain social order” if the government asks it to step in.
Wu Qian, spokesman for China’s Ministry of National Defence, told media: “We have been paying close attention to the developments in Hong Kong, especially after riots on Sunday when radical forces besieged the Liaison Office of the Central People’s government in Hong Kong.”
He cited Chinese legislation stating that the Hong Kong government could ask China to allow the People’s Liberation Army garrison stationed in Hong Kong to maintain social order and disaster relief when needed.
He said it wasn’t there to be “token or symbolic”.
6,000 ‘COMBAT-READY TROOPS’
And CY Yeung, the territory’s former chief executive, in a letter to the FT, said there were 6,000 “combat-ready” troops already stationed there.
After the latest round of demonstrations in Hong Kong, police said late Tuesday that 44 people had been charged with rioting.
The accused set up roadblocks, broke fences, damaged street signs and attacked police officers with bricks and iron rods, cops said in a statement.
Only 23 appeared in court today, and all were released on bail. Their sentencing is scheduled for September 25.
They were detained after clashes with police at an unauthorised protest in the western part of Hong Kong island on Sunday, when police repeatedly fired tear gas and rubber bullets to drive back protesters blocking the streets with road signs and umbrellas.
Cops issued warnings prior to using the tear gas, but determined protesters stood their ground and threw eggs at them.
News of the charges prompted quickly organised protests outside two police stations late Tuesday.
Several hundred people gathered in the streets outside the Kwai Chung police station.
Some threw eggs at the building, while police used pepper spray to try to disperse them.
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Fireworks were set off just before 3am at another police station, injuring six men.
Video footage on social media appeared to show a car driving past the Tin Shui Wai police station as fireworks flared where protesters were gathered.
Five people were taken to a hospital and a sixth man declined medical treatment at the scene, police said. It wasn’t clear who was responsible.
The action follows brutal attacks by triad thugs last week, who battered pro-democracy protesters with pipes and poles, including a pregnant woman.
What is Hong Kong's extradition bill and why are people protesting against it?
Campaigners in Hong Kong are continuing to protest against a controversial extradition law, despite their leader Carrie Lam suspending the bill.
This potential legislation would pave the way for fugitives wanted by mainland China to be sent across the border for trial for the first time.
The bill, if it became law, would make it possible for mainland Chinese courts to ask Hong Kong courts to freeze and confiscate assets related to crimes committed in the mainlain.
The Hong Kong government initially launched the proposals in February.
It proposed sweeping changes that would simplify case-by-case extraditions of criminal suspects to countries beyond the 20 with which Hong Kong has existing extradition treaties.
The bill explicitly allows extraditions from Hong Kong to greater China – including the mainland, Taiwan and Macau – for the first time.
This would close what Hong Kong government officials have repeatedly described as a “loophole” that they claim has allowed the city to become a haven for criminals from the mainland.
Schools, lawyers and church groups have joined human rights groups to protest the measures.
The government then moved to fast-track the bill by scrapping legislative procedures, which stoked outrage among opponents.
Then, in a dramatic retreat, Lam delayed indefinitely the proposed law in early June, after widespread anger sparked the biggest street protests in three decades.
Opponents of the bill see it as a threat to the rule of law in the former British colony and would put them at the mercy of China’s justice system where human rights are not guaranteed.
Protesters are demanding the bill be completely scrapped – which is why protests have not yet stopped.