China hints at deployment of military in Hong Kong to quell anti-extradition protests that have raged for past 2 months

  • The Chinese military on Wednesday warned pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong that it could deploy its soldiers on the city government's request to maintain law and order

  • Hong Kong has been witnessing a violent mass outrage with thousands taking to streets against the government's plan to allow extraditions to the Communist nation

  • Currently, Chinese troops are deployed at a garrison in the former British colony

Beijing: The Chinese military on Wednesday warned pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong that it could deploy its soldiers on the city government's request to maintain law and order in the wake of anti-Beijing demonstrations against a bill allowing extraditions to China.

Hong Kong has been witnessing a violent mass outrage with thousands taking to streets against the government's plan to allow extraditions to the Communist nation. Currently, Chinese troops are deployed at a garrison in the former British colony.

While releasing a white paper on the Chinese military, China's defence spokesman Col Wu Qian on Wednesday told the media that Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) troops stationed at garrison in Hong Kong can be deployed if the local government requested so. “We are closely following the developments in Hong Kong, especially the violent attack against the central government liaison office by radicals on 21 July,” Wu said. “Some behaviour of the radical protesters is challenging the authority of the central government and the bottom line of one country, two systems. This is intolerable,” Wu said.

 China hints at deployment of military in Hong Kong to quell anti-extradition protests that have raged for past 2 months

File image of the Hong Kong protests. AP

The protesters on Sunday turned their ire on the China's ruling Communist Party office in Hong Kong and smeared the party symbol with black paint, provoking angry reactions from China saying that protesters have challenged the bottom line of the principle of 'one country, two systems'.

China is in a quandary over the intensified protests opposing the bill even after Beijing-backed Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam announced on 9 July that the bill has been suspended. But the protesters, whose number at times swelled to over two million, have continued to stage demonstrations asking for the bill's complete withdrawal. The protests are stated to be the largest ever since Hong Kong has been returned to China by Britain in 1997.

To a question whether PLA troops could be involved in maintaining order in the city, Wu said, “article 14 of the garrison law has clear stipulations”. He, however, did not elaborate.

Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post while interpreting Wu's comments reported that the article states that the Hong Kong government, in accordance with the Basic Law – the city's mini-constitution – can ask the central government for assistance from the PLA's Hong Kong garrison in maintaining public order and for disaster relief. Should any such request by the Hong Kong government be approved, the garrison would send troops to carry out the task and immediately return to their station, the report said. The mention of the article 14 is seen as an indication that China is not ruling out the deployment of its military if the local police failed to control the protests.

On Tuesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying alleged that the US and the UK were behind the Hong Kong protests. “I want to point out that what happened in Hong Kong recently has nothing to do with the freedom of speech and assembly. It is radical and violent behaviour that violate law, which directly undermines the foundation of rule of law in Hong Kong, goes against the Basic Law and Hong Kong's local laws,” Hua said.

“Judging from what was on the media, we see clear signs of foreign manipulation, orchestration and even organisation in the relevant violent incidents," the spokesperson said. "I hope the US will answer this question honestly and clearly: what role did the US play in the recent incidents in Hong Kong and what is your purpose behind it?” Hua asked. The spokesperson said that the US should know that Hong Kong belongs to China and it does not allow any foreign interference in the affairs of Hong Kong. "Nor will we allow any foreign forces to mess up Hong Kong. We advise the US to withdraw its dirty hands from Hong Kong as soon as possible,” Hua said.

On the British criticism of China's handling of protests, she said, “The UK has been talking a lot about the rights and freedom in Hong Kong. Without security and stability, where do rights and freedom come from? As an old Chinese saying goes, "with the skin gone, to what can the hair attach itself?"

“I believe the majority of Hong Kong residents have a sober understanding of the damage and nature of the violent illegal behaviours of a small number of radicals,” she added.

Updated Date: Jul 24, 2019 15:21:40 IST