Fleets of Chinese armoured personnel carriers appear to be gathering near the border of Hong Kong. Satellite images show what looks like more than 100 vehicles sitting in and around the soccer stadium at the Shenzhen Bay Sports Centre in Shenzhen—just north of Hong Kong’s financial hub, where demonstrators have been protesting against the Beijing government for more than two months.
Some have interpreted the influx of troop carriers as a threat from Beijing to use increased force against protesting Hong Kongers, The Guardian reports.
The photos—released by Maxar Technologies, a US space tech company that specialises in “Earth observation”, among other things—come just days after Alexandre Krauss, a senior political adviser at Renew Europe, posted a video to Twitter that appeared to show paramilitary vehicles entering the stadium.
“Disturbing video taken in #Shenzhen just across the boarder [sic] with #HongKong,” Krauss wrote. “Something extraordinarily bad is about [to] happen.”
China's state media reported earlier this week that forces had been assembled in the border city of Shenzhen for training exercises. Despite state media saying that the exercises had been planned before and were not related to the Hong Kong uprising, however, there are growing fears that Beijing might directly intervene upon the situation.
On Monday, China declared that the ongoing pro-democracy demonstrations were beginning to show “sprouts of terrorism”. Earlier this month, embattled Chief Executive Carrie Lam ominously said of the protests: “such disruptions have seriously undermined Hong Kong’s law and order and are pushing our city, the city we all love, and many of us helped to build, to the verge of a very dangerous situation.”
The Hong Kong protests began in early June, in response to a contentious extradition bill—advocated by Lam’s government—which would allow China to extradite people from Hong Kong to the mainland. For many, that bill symbolises a growing fear that Hong Kong, long-viewed as a separate entity from mainland China, is losing its autonomy under Beijing’s encroaching authoritarianism.
While the Hong Kong government has suspended the bill, activists worry it could be revived at a later date. And with no end in sight to the clashes between Hong Kong’s government and the activists, fears that China may step in with a military presence have grown. Beijing's comments on Monday further stoked these fears.
"Hong Kong’s radical demonstrators have repeatedly attacked police officers with extremely dangerous tools," said Yang Guang, a spokesman for the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office. "They have already constituted serious violent crimes and have begun to show signs of terrorism. This is a gross violation of the rule of law and social order in Hong Kong, which is endangering the lives and safety for Hong Kong citizens."
This article originally appeared on VICE ASIA.