Chinese military garrison chief in Hong Kong says army is determined to protect China’s sovereignty, stoking fears of intervention
Laurel Chor in Hong Kong – The Guardian
The head of the Chinese army in Hong Kong has spoken on the protests for the first time, saying the unrest has “seriously threatened the life and safety” of the people and should not be tolerated.
The commander of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) garrison in Hong Kong warned it was “determined to protect national sovereignty, security, stability and the prosperity of Hong Kong”.
The remarks were made by Chen Daoxiang on Wednesday at a reception celebrating the 92nd anniversary of the PLA. They came the day after 43 protesters were charged with rioting and released on bail. Some of those charged were as young as 16 and included a Cathay Pacific pilot.
The PLA chief also gave his “firm” support to Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, as well as to to the Hong Kong police force for “rigorously enforcing the law”.
At the reception, the PLA released a dramatic video showcasing the army. In one scene, an anti-riot drill was shown where ranks of marching soldiers holding riot shields advanced and fired on fleeing “citizens”. The scene included footage of tanks rolling in, water cannon being used, and “handcuffed” citizens being led away.
A soldier was seen shouting in Cantonese, the language spoken in Hong Kong rather than mainland China: “All consequences are at your own risk.”
The commander’s intervention came as first chief executive of Hong Kong, Tung Chee-hwa, accused the US and Taiwan of orchestrating the protests that have rocked the former British colony for eight weeks.
Tung claimed that “foreign politicians and anti-China forces with ulterior motives” were working “to incite the fear of the people of Hong Kong and undermine the relationship between the mainland and Hong Kong”. He warned Hong Kong people against “being used”.
Tung, who is the vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, also gave his support to the Hong Kong authorities in “defending the rule of law and taking decisive measures to restore social order”, adding that they have “already heard the voice of the public”.
The remarks of both the PLA chief and Tung reiterated Beijing’s position and the rhetoric it has used throughout the protests with its backing of the Hong Kong authorities, the claims that foreign forces are intervening, and the condemnation of the increasingly violent protests.