The general in charge of China’s army in Hong Kong issued a chilling warning that there would be no tolerance of pro-democracy demonstrations, as his garrison released a propaganda video showing troops firing guns, blowing up cars, and running “anti-riot” drills to quell protests.
Maj.-Gen. Chen Daoxiang, commander of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) garrison in Hong Kong, made the comments at a reception in the garrison’s barracks Wednesday night.
“Recently, there have been a series of violent incidents happening in Hong Kong,” Chen told an audience that included Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam.
He said the unrest had “severely damaged” Hong Kong’s stability, rule of law, and social order, threatened the lives of its residents, and “severely violated the bottom line of the 'one country, two systems' framework.”
“This should not be tolerated and we express our strong condemnation,” he said, describing violent protests as “absolutely impermissible.”
At the reception, held to celebrate the 92nd anniversary of the PLA, the garrison released a slick propaganda video showing heavily armed Chinese forces responding to protesters.
The 3-minute clip, cut like a high-octane action movie trailer, shows PLA light tanks, attack helicopters, and missile launchers in a setting that resembles Hong Kong. The video, which was circulated on social media, depicts troops carrying out an “anti-riot” drill in which armored personnel carriers and water cannons are used to scatter the fake protesters, some of whom are shown being led away in cuffs.
“All consequences are at your own risk,” a soldier yells in Cantonese, the language spoken in Hong Kong. Others hold banners similar to those used by Hong Kong riot police during recent demonstrations, reading: "Warning: stop charging or we use force.”
The thinly veiled threats will likely heighten anxieties about a potential intervention by the Chinese military to quell the pro-democracy protests that have roiled the semi-autonomous city for eight weeks. Reports emerged Tuesday that the U.S. was monitoring a sudden congregation of Chinese forces at the border with Hong Kong.
The propaganda clip comes amid reports of fake videos purportedly depicting PLA troops cracking down on Hong Kong protesters, which have flooded social media networks and stoked public anxiety about a potential Chinese military intervention.
So far, PLA forces have remained in their barracks in central Hong Kong, although the presence of its approximately 10,000 troops has cast a long shadow over the demonstrations, where protesters’ anger has focused on symbols of Beijing’s control of the city.
Beijing has said Hong Kong authorities can request the assistance of the PLA’s garrison in the city if needed.
“We believe that the Hong Kong garrison of the People’s Liberation Army will continue to become a stabilizing pillar for Hong Kong’s long-term prosperity and stability,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a briefing in Beijing Thursday.
Beijing has accused Western powers of fuelling the protests, calling out Washington by name for the first time this week after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo publicly expressed hope “the Chinese will do the right thing” over the issue.
But the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that the Trump administration has advised government officials to take a measured public line on the protests, for fear of jeopardizing sensitive talks on a possible trade deal with Beijing. “It was made clear down the chain that we need to be measured on Hong Kong,” the report quoted an unnamed administration official as saying.
Cover: A bleeding man is taken away by policemen after attacked by protesters outside Kwai Chung police station in Hong Kong, Wednesday, July 31, 2019. Protesters clashed with police again in Hong Kong on Tuesday night after reports that some of their detained colleagues would be charged with the relatively serious charge of rioting. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)