China delivers its most explicit threat to use military force in Hong Kong if protests get bigger and more violent
- Senior Chinese officials on Wednesday offered stern warnings to Hong Kong about China's ability to step in to handle protests that have rocked the city for over nine weeks.
- Zhang Xiaoming, the director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of China's State Council, said that Chinese authorities would not just "sit by" if the situation in Hong Kong deteriorates,
- He added that China has "ample methods as well as sufficient strength" to quell protests.
- Wang Zhimin, director of the China's liaison office in Hong Kong said maintaining stability in the region is now a "life or death" battle.
- Under the Basic Law, China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) maintains a military presence in Hong Kong which can step in and use force if it deems necessary.
- Though China has not yet officially announced plans to mobilise the PLA, Wednesday's comments appear to be the most explicit reference to Chinese military intervention in the city since its handover.
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Senior Chinese officials offered stern warnings to Hong Kong about China's ability to intervene in the city's affairs, saying that the country had "ample methods as well as sufficient strength" to handle protests that have rocked the city for over nine weeks.
What initially started as a protest against a proposed bill that would allow for the extradition of Hong Kong residents to mainland China for trial has ballooned into a fight to uphold democracy in the semi-autonomous region.
Zhang Xiaoming, the director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of China's State Council, said on Wednesday that Chinese authorities would not just "sit by" if the situation in Hong Kong deteriorates to a point that is beyond the control of the city's government.
"According to the Basic Law, the central authorities have ample methods as well as sufficient strength to promptly settle any possible turmoil should it occur," he said at a meeting of Hong Kong's top business leaders and pro-Beijing politicians in Shenzen, according to state-run news agency Xinhua.
"The most pressing and overriding task at present is to stop violence, end the chaos and restore order, so as to safeguard our homeland and prevent Hong Kong from sinking into an abyss."
Wang Zhimin, director of the China's liaison office in Hong Kong, also spoke during Wednesday's meeting and said maintaining stability in Hong Kong is now a "life or death" battle.
"It is now a 'life-or-death' fight for the very future of Hong Kong," Wang said. "There is no room for retreat."
Zhang said he believes Hong Kong is facing its worst crisis since 1997, the year the city ended 150 years of British rule and sovereignty was handed over to China through an agreement called "the Basic Law."
This law allows Hong Kong to maintain its own political, legal, and economic systems separate from China until 2047 under the One Country, Two Systems policy.
Under the Basic Law, China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) maintains a military presence in Hong Kong composed of personnel from China's navy, ground, and air forces.
Though the PLA arm is "not to interfere in the local affairs of Hong Kong," the Hong Kong government may ask the garrison to intervene "in the maintenance of public order and disaster relief."
China's Standing Committee can call on the garrison to act in the event that it decides Hong Kong is in a state of emergency.
Though China has not yet officially declared that it plans to use the PLA's presence in Hong Kong to combat worsening protests, Wednesday's comments appear to be the most explicit reference to Chinese military intervention in the city since its handover.
China in recent weeks has been hinting that it is prepared to use force in Hong Kong should unrest intensify.
VCG/VCG via Getty Images
VCG/VCG via Getty Images
Last month, the PLA Hong Kong Garrison carried out "emergency response exercises" - a display observers perceived as a reminder of China's ability to step in and use force in Hong Kong if it deems it necessary as stipulated by the Basic Law.
Weeks later, it released a three-minute video which showed its soldiers engaged in various military activities, including firing rockets and guns at targets and practicing riot drills with a group of mock protesters dressed similar to protesters in current demonstrations.
And on Tuesday, 12,000 Chinese police officers gathered in Shenzen along the Hong Kong border to practice anti-riot drills similar to those seen on the streets of Hong Kong.
"The turnaround in the Hong Kong situation will not come from retreat or compromise with the opposition," Zhang said.
"People can give up on the idea that the central authorities will make any concessions on issues concerning our principles."
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